Working on some new material for the Conflict Communications course and dealing with other projects as well.
There are two links that will help with the background on this post:
(Turns out I've never actually done a post on the ICS model and goals-backward versus resources-forward thinking. Maybe it was in "Meditations on Violence?" Memory is the second thing to go.)
I have a saying that if you don't know the difference between leadership and management, you're a manager. But knowing the difference is not the same as putting it in words or being able to explain the difference. Almost every book on leadership I've ever read was about management and written by a manager who thought he was a leader. The notable exception is Paul Howe's "Leadership and Training for the Fight."
So now I'm trying to put it into words and I think I have it, but it has an unexpected twist.
Managers are systems builders. They desire to create a system, a network of facilities and policies that remove the human element. They want to believe (and insist) that all people are equal, that all officers (or workers or deputies or soldiers) are the same and should be treated the same. They believe that if they can ever make a perfect system, the system will run smoothly and efficiently regardless of the actual humans that are doing the work.
And this is the first twist. The managers that I know are far more likely to talk about 'respect' and 'diversity' than the leaders I know, but the systems they create are inhuman machines. And so they 'respect diversity' while trying to reduce all people to numbers. To interchangeable cogs in this inhuman machine. All the while insisting they are only trying to be 'fair.'
My personal belief is that this isn't so much about the system or about the goal. I don't think it's that teleological. I think it is about trying to minimize personal conflict. You're a manager, you don't want to fire people. So much easier to just be the messenger who gives them the message that under current policy they can no longer be employed. The policy, not the boss, did the firing. There's still conflict, but you can pretend it's not personal. As long as you follow the policies, you have no responsibility for the outcomes. Because there are no decisions.
Another way to put it is that managers try to create a flow chart without personal decisions affecting the outcome. Remove the personal element and the product will always be perfect.
It works okay. It must, since management is rampant and leadership is rare. But there are severe weaknesses to this kind of system. The first that comes to mind is the inflexibility. Reliance on emergency protocols can be really, really good-- as long as you get an emergency you predicted and wrote a protocol for. Inflexibility also hurts you when you have a time-sensitive opportunity.
The second obvious problem is that there are people who excel at manipulating systems. No matter how well designed or well intentioned, bad people do bad things with good systems.
Third problem is that sooner or later, the system becomes the purpose. Hospitals exist to stay in business rather than to treat people. Governments promote and protect the parties rather than the citizens. How you do something (whether you followed the procedure) becomes more important than what you did-- and so we have retail workers fired for defending themselves and paramedics in the UK who must go into more detail in their reports about the safety equipment they wore than on how the victim was extracted from the crashed vehicle.
There are more, but don't get too comfortable and self-righteous. Management is more pervasive because it is more popular. Most people would rather be managed than led. Because being led demands more. It demands personal responsibility.
"I followed the policy. It's not my fault." Is adequate in a system. In the kind of place where leadership is allowed the answer is:
"Policy is no excuse. You knew this would happen."
The only protection under leadership is your personal skill, and very few people are comfortable with that. Management may create a soulless machine, but a lot of people seem comfortable there.
Leadership is about people, not policy. It is about telling people to their faces when they have screwed up and also when they have done well. Leadership is not always superior to management. It is much easier to be a bad leader than a bad manager and it has more effect. It is also easier to be a good leader than a good manager, and that has more effect to.
And that may be part of the difference. Managerial systems are designed so that the cogs are interchangeable. Including the managers. So a manager, whether good or bad, will cause little change. The situation is perfect for those who fear doing something wrong more than they value doing something well.
Maybe it's not such a twist. I was originally puzzled that so many I talk to think of leaders as hard chargers with little regard for others, when leadership is a people skill. Conversely, the words coming out of every HR department I've worked with have all been about valuing the individual, and fairness... and they are responsible for creating and maintaining an inhuman system.
But looked at from the twin perspectives of trying to avoid personal responsibility and avoid personal conflict it does make sense. Thus the people who use the word 'diversity' as a mantra want everyone to look different but think the same. It limits conflict. And I wanted the widest variety of backgrounds on my teams as possible, because people who thought different would come at problems from different angles. More conflict, but we solved some issues.
That's enough typing for now. Teams and committees will have to come later.
Daniel: You think you could break a log like that?
Miyagi: Don't know. Never been attacked by a tree. Karate Kid II
Breaking stuff, boards, bricks and ice, is universally associated with martial arts training. They go together like bacon and eggs, like spaghetti and meatballs, like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
When someone finds out that I'm into martial arts they invariably say, "Oh, so you do this!" and then they make that universal symbol of a karate-chop motion in the air, thumb extended, while saying "Hiii-ee-yah!"
"No," I say, "that's not what I do."
"You mean you don't break bricks and boards?"
"So, what DO you do then?" they ask.
"Fight training...hand-to-hand combat...personal protection skills."
"Oh," they say, usually sounding a little disappointed.
I've never really understood the importance of board breaking. But lots of my friends do it...make a big production of it. Some even hold clinics in which they teach their students the intricacies of board breaking.
"Board breaking," according to the Academy of Traditional Karate, in Washington, MA, "is a great confidence-boosting activity. It helps you set goals and see the power and effectiveness of your karate strikes."
In most demonstrations involving board breaks one or more people will hold one or more boards in a static position. The person breaking the board(s) will take time setting up the break, making fine, last-minute adjustments to the angle, making sure the grain is aligned properly, and ensuring that the person(s) holding the board(s) use(s) a good tight grip. They may take several preliminary practice punches or kicks, like a baseball batter taking practice swings. They may get themselves mentally prepared with deep breathing, wild war-face expressions, and loud shouts. They often bow before and after each break as if it's a ceremony or ritual.
At one demo, I saw a guy who had unsuccessfully attempted to break some boards with a kick, berating the guy who didn't hold the board right, which resulted in a nice, loud 'thud' but no broken board.
What has any of this to do with fighting or self defense?
What did Bruce Lee mean when he said, "Boards don't hit back"? Why do people still do it, and shouldn't they know better?
I mean, we all know this: An attacker does not stand still, rigid, at just the right angle. An attacker will not brace himself so that your punches and kicks hit a firm, stationary target. Chances are an opponent will be moving around or hard-charging directly in towards his intended victim.
The reason that martial arts include board breaks is because they teach students to focus strikes on specific points and use full power. No matter how powerful a student is, if he or she can't hit a target (and boards are usually still, but that doesn't always help) then they can't effectively use their strikes. If they can always hit something but don't know how to apply power, they're no better off. (1)
But here's an entry from Wikipedia, which points out some of the issues with board breaking: "Breaking is based on physics and selection of materials, and the most commonly seen breaking involves spaced, softwood boards. While very difficult to break even a piece of soft pine wood hitting against (perpendicular to) the grain, breaking is almost always done with (parallel to) the grain - which requires little skill or strength. The use of spacers means instead of breaking the entire stack at once, they break one at a time; each one helps break the next as little momentum is lost and gravity is helping. Because of this, breaking is primarily used as an advertising gimmick to woo potential customers."
If it's true that "how you practice, is how you'll perform," or "how you rehearse, is how you'll react," then shouldn't board breaking be done differently? Trying to break a board that's in motion?
I don't dispute that board breaking takes strength, accuracy, precision and explosive force. Especially when someone breaks 3 or 4 or more boards without using a spacer between them. Especially speed breaks with little set up, or that trick that some martial artists do where they toss a board in the air and break it with a spin kick. That takes incredible skill.
But it's an outdated, potentially fraudulent stunt that really does not translate into real-world fighting skill. To my friends who have a don't-knock-it-til-you've-tried-it philosophy, I can say that I have indeed broken boards. In fact, I used to take beginners and have them break a board in their first session just so they could say they've done it and hopefully get it out of their system.
I just don't understand its allure. It's just another example of much ado about nothing.
“If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti
I doubt if anyone would dispute that slow, methodical, deliberate training is needed in order to eventually become fast. Walking through a series of movements--getting familiar with the sequence, letting the action steps settle into your muscle memory--will ultimately pay off when you pick up speed. Learning at a calm, slow pace until the moves begin to feel familiar just makes sense.
But there's nothing like good, dynamic, explosive training from time to time.
If training is always at a certain speed, then explosiveness may not be there for you when you really need it. You just don't see NASCAR drivers using cruise control. Sometimes you gotta kick out the jams, go all-out, full-power, pedal-to-the-metal, full-speed ahead.
Dial the intensity all the way up to 11 every now and then!
Some researchers contend that explosiveness training is just inviting injury, but others have reached different conclusions.
University of Alabama researchers, for example, found that doing weight resistance exercises slowly, what some have called super-slow lifting, usually just end up making workout super-long. The up phase of a lift, they concluded, should be done at a moderate to fast tempo, while the down, or lowering phase, should be done at a slow, controlled pace.
But I guess it really depends on what you want to accomplish. Sprinters probably do some slow-paced runs every now and then to maintain or improve aerobic capacity, but mostly they just run really fast. Or they do things which contribute to speed, such as plyometrics, strength and power training, and sport-specific drills using drag sleds and parachutes, to develop shot-out-of-a-gun acceleration.
That's why it's surprising for me when I see some martial artists always training at a certain, comfortable speed. Instead of ratcheting up the training, they have a don't-touch-that-dial philosophy, and they always train at a deliberate cruise control pace.
Reality tells us this is not a smart plan. The action of a violent assault is fast, blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast. If you've ever been in a real fight, or if you've watched real fights on security footage, it becomes all too clear that a methodical approach and a leisurely pace just won't cut it.
How to Add Explosiveness
- Work towards obtaining maximal strength: Strength is the root of power, and power is strength in motion. Fast people are also strong people, and strong where it matters. Just look at the incredible, statuesque physiques of fast runners. The common denominator resistance exercises, seen in most any sports training program, are military presses, deadlifts, bench presses, curls, lunges and squats. Many sports trainers adhere to the 'big-butts-big-power' philosophy and use glute exercises to overcome the quad dominance found in slower, untrained athletes.
- Transition to explosive training: Once adequate strength gains are made, it's time to start working on power and acceleration. A solid base level of strength is required to ensure injury-free training. Adding speed to your resistance lifts to increase the intensity is appropriate once you have developed a strong base. Squats and burpees are fantastic, and so is heavy bag training. I remember doing what seemed like thousands of 'touch your boots' squats, pull-ups and push-ups in Airborne training at Fort Benning Georgia to prepare us for the rigorous demands of landing after jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. These standard exercises build explosiveness, endurance and strength and should be a part of any fighter's training program.
- Utilize plyometric exercises: 'Eccentric' is not just your crazy uncle. In the world of elite athletes, plyometrics, in which you merge both eccentric and concentric contractions in specialized exercises, helps develop explosiveness. Performing unique jumping and bounding movements, such as squat and jumps, doing push ups/press ups in which you launch yourself from the ground and attempt to clap one or more times before you hit the ground, or lying on the ground and catching a dropped heavy medicine ball and explosively sending it back to your partner standing above you on a chair, will make your techniques more powerful.
- Overload training helps: Wearing weight vests, wrist weights, and/or ankle weights in a smart way can pay off down the road. Of course it's recommended that you avoid snapping, fully extended movements while wearing wrist and ankle weights. Off-road trail hiking on uneven terrain while wearing a backpack loaded up with sand bags is dynamite training for back, core, quads, glutes, and ankles.
- Reduce work-to-rest ratios: As Vince Lombardi said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Speed training can very quickly deplete energy reserves. Learning how to work through this fatigue by gradually changing the work-to-rest ratio will provide you with confidence. Go and watch a high school or college wrestling team train some time, and you'll see athletes who push themselves way past what would turn the average athlete to mush. This type of training can feel like punishment, but world class athletes swear by it.
- Use periodization: You can't train fast ALL the time. Cycle your training so that speed training and plyometrics are specifically scheduled, and progressively work towards those specific weeks and then gradually taper down before attempting it again a few weeks later.
- Hit the road, Jack: Boxers will often do long, slow distance or LSD running, and so should we all. But sprint training on the high school track and hill training (both uphill and downhill) are also needed. When I coached a full contact kickboxing team back in the 80s we used 100 yard dashes to condition the fighters. When I prepared U.S. soldiers for NATO courses such as German Ranger school or French Commando training, the soldiers would jog uphill with a buddy on their back.
- Use equipment: Drag sleds, parachutes, and bungee cords are fantastic pieces of equipment. Or for a cheap alternative simply use your martial arts belt with a partner holding on to the ends of the belt attempting to hold you back as you try to move forward. This type of training can help in working to overcome resistance. Judoka will often use bicycle inner tubes or elastic bands to practice moving in for a throw, and wrestlers will use harnesses and bungee cords to add resistance as they attempt to shoot in for a takedown. Using a grappling dummy who feels no pain or fatigue regardless of your best efforts to slam it into oblivion can help get your lungs quickly begging for precious O2.
- Stand in the corner: I love having students get in a corner and try to punch and kick their way out while surrounded by training partners holding kicking shields. This is exhausting, but realistic training. To make it even more intense set an egg timer and tell the student to make it out before the bell rings or they'll have to do it again!
- Change directions: Being able to move fast in one direction is not enough. Being able to change directions quickly is key. Zig zag, quick-feet footwork drills or having the student engage targets in multiple directions helps develop this much needed skill. You can surround the student with 4 partners holding kicking shields. Give each attacker a number and randomly shout out a number to signal one of them to charge in. This forces the defender to change directions quickly and be ready for an attack from any angle.
- Get wet: Training in a swimming pool is phenomenal at providing resistance and enhancing speed. I have done judo, wrestling, and stand-up sparring in a pool, and I have even practiced trying to run full speed in a lane intended for swimming. After a little of this you'll feel like the Flash when you try to run on solid ground. Don't believe me that it's great training? Just look at this picture of the greatest himself!
"Welcome to the real world."
When I first started training in martial arts, it was not uncommon to find a poster in every dojo showing the body's vulnerable areas. Little red arrows pointed to the eyes, nose and chin, the ribs, the solar plexus, the groin, the kidneys, the knees, etc. The poster implied that the body was just chock full of vital areas which, if struck, would produce agonizing pain, mind-searing trauma, and absolute unconsciousness or worse.
I still see these old posters from time to time, and sometimes I'll see newer, revamped versions. What's odd is that the number of vulnerable areas seems to have grown. With the popularity and growth of so-called 'pressure point fighting' techniques, a typical poster now looks like a picture in a medical journal of a victim of measles.
Here's what they don't tell you: Hitting those targets, especially on a living, breathing, highly agitated, resisting, bull-charging, coked-out, brain-numbed, adrenalized attacker ain't that easy. And here's something else they may forget to say: Even if you are lucky enough to actually hit one of those targets, the result may not be as dramatic as you have been led to expect.
It's not just that you're trying to hit a moving target. You're trying to hit a MOVING-AT-YOU target.
Many martial artists, it seems, are absolutely obsessed with precision. They obsess about achieving the proper stance and perfect posture and other trivial matters. I once watched a class in which 3 different types of praying mantis hands were described along with the merits of each. Too many martial artists worry about the art and forget all about the martial. They obsess over fine nuances of techniques, concerned for how good they look.
A clue: If your favorite piece of training equipment is the mirror, you may be approaching your fighting skills all wrong.
Precision, or exactness and accuracy, are goals in many sports and recreational activities--golf, darts, archery, bowling, etc. In dance, in gymnastics and in other performance-driven arts, precision is indeed important. An artist will be judged on the merits of his or her precise movements. Perhaps, in the arena of combat sports, such as boxing, MMA, K-1, Muay Thai, precision is a major factor.
"I believe in precision," said professional boxer Alexis Arguello. "I'd take precision any day over power."
But in the world of hand-to-hand combat, and life-or-death personal protection, precision is just one of many factors. I would contend that there are a number of other factors and attributes that are key:
- Positioning. Finding a stance (fighting platform) that is both stable and mobile. Chin down, hands up. Knees bent. Ready to pivot. Room to move. Move like an athlete. Agile.
- Power. Achieving stopping power. Mass times acceleration.
- Redundancy. Back-up plans and follow-up tactics.
- Tenacity. Stubborn, never-say-die, honey-badger-don't-care mindset.
- Flow. Not some flippy-dippy small stream flow. I'm talking a raging torrent of techniques. Machine-gun mentality.
- Emotional control. Just the right amount of fierce anger. Not yielding to fear, not succumbing to panic. Not giving in to energy-sapping emotion.
- Breathing. Keep breathing. Force the breath out. Bring air in.
- Pain management. It'll hurt tomorrow, but not today, not now. Put it out of your mind.
- As Morpheus told Neo in the movie "The Matrix": "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." Don't get fixated. Don't evaluate, don't measure, don't judge your performance. Don't think too much. Allow the machine to do what it has been trained to do. As George Clinton said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
In May, 2003 developmentally disabled 22-year-old Jessica Williams was tortured, stabbed, beaten and her body burned by her ‘street family’ for alleged betrayal. At least eleven people were charged. I worked with most of them. In custody they ranged from respectful to fearful.This level of group violence gets called a lot of things. A group stomping, a wilding, a gang-rape…even a drive-by shooting has some of the same dynamics. Humans are primates and sometimes, as primates, we indulge in violence as a group or even as a mob.This type of violence isn’t about status: there is no proving you’re a better man by being part of a group that kicks someone to death. This, the Group Monkey Dance, is about one of three things:
1) Teaching an outsider to respect boundaries. Domestic violence calls are often cited as one of the most dangerous police situations. No matter how brutally damaged the victim is, there is always a chance that both the victim and the victimizer will turn on the responding officers. I have a video of a young man breaking up a fight. Both of the involved fighters and the audience turn on the young man.Humans in groups prefer to handle things within the group. They become resentful and sometimes violent if an outsider decides to ‘fix’ things. The tighter, smaller and more cohesive the group, the more interference is resented.Here’s an example that most readers will relate to, one that many readers have actually done. If you are an older sibling, you picked on and fought with your younger brothers and sisters, right? Little dominance games happen all the time between children.However, when your little brother or sister started school, if they were bullied, didn’t you step in? Though the dominance game (new kid with a group of other kids in a new school) was natural, it violated the idea of family. You may beat up your kid brother. No one else can.Stopping others from picking on your family is an example of forcing an outsider to respect boundaries.Emotions are contagious and when one member of a group starts getting violent, other members of the same group join in. It seems logical that they do this out of fear, that their own loyalty to the group might be doubted and they might be seen as outsiders. It seems logical, but I doubt there is that much thought involved. People join in too quickly.The solidarity with the group allows an intense level of violence. The more one identifies with the group, the easer it is to see an outsider as ‘other’ and the ability to other sets the amount of damage one can do.
2) Betrayal. Betrayal is one of the deepest emotions in the human animal. Treason is punishable by execution even when nothing else is. For many years, killing a cheating spouse had it’s own legal defense and was termed an “excusable homicide” Florida’s statute for instance in part read:
782.03 Excusable homicide.—Homicide is excusable when committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent, or by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, without any dangerous weapon being used and not done in a cruel or unusual manner.
Perhaps this comes from our prehistory, where starvation was a real danger and anyone who couldn’t be trusted risked everyone’s life.In any case, in any group or subculture where violence is an acceptable tool, betrayal (real or not) can be met with horrific violence. It becomes a contest where each member of a group proves loyalty by what they are willing to do to the betrayer.The case that opens this story was a local example. Middle-eastern stonings over adultery are another. In almost any culture, however that culture defines betrayal, betrayal will be punished with the most extreme force allowed.
3) Bonding. There is very little as bonding as committing violence with a small group of friends. Our ancestors would hunt big animals as a group and tell stories about the hunt and each other. In the intensity of the chase and the spear you would find out much about your compatriots: who was cool under stress, who lost control, who was afraid and who you could trust. The intensity of shared experience makes a tight group.Nothing has changed. I am tighter with the former members of my tactical team than with most of my blood family. Combat veterans and even people who went through intense training feel a close bond. The dynamic is the same in drive-by shootings, wildings in Central Park or even fraternity hazing.
Avoiding the Group Monkey DanceThe first rule is to never betray a group. You may leave a group (and all groups that I am aware of, even the most violent, have a mechanism to leave) and may even become an open enemy afterwards, but betraying a group from the inside, or even being believed to, is very, very bad.If you choose to get involved in an insider situation as an outsider, think it through. Cops have a duty to act. Civilians don’t. If you don’t need to get involved, weigh the risks and decide if it is worth it. Be as objective as you can. It is dangerous.The best verbal intervention is to present yourself as an objective outsider who has no opinion and doesn’t care about who is right or wrong. Right or wrong are determined by in-group standards in any case. “Break it up! You’re hurting her!” immediately puts you in a position of both being an outsider and judgmental.“You’d better knock it off, I overheard someone calling 911 and the cops are on the way,” will break up the situation without turning the focus to you.The bonding monkey dance is a special case. Some are performed for fun (wildings in Central Park, videoed beatings on youtube) some are protecting territory or market share (drive-by shootings) and some are simply for cash.Situational awareness is an over-used phrase. Without specific education of the things you need to be aware of it’s only words. Meaningless. For this type of crime, what you are looking for are patterns of motion. Groups moving purposefully together. Groups that cease talking and laughing and split up after spotting a mark. The patterns of a pincer movement or triangulation. Staged loitering, where people lounge against walls but with unusual separation, so that when you walk past they are perfectly staged, one in front of you and one or more behind. Sometimes, in neighborhoods with experience of gang violence or where a violent group is creating trouble, you can read the flow of other people. As a rule of thumb, if you’re in an unfamiliar place and all the natives clear the street, you might want to think about it as well.
If you become the center of a Group Monkey Dance it is hard to overstate the level of danger. The safest of the variations is the simple group mugging for cash. There’s no value in excessive damage and the bloodier the crime the more it gets investigated. But if any member of the group is insecure and senses a loss of control he will explode into violence. Emotions being contagious, the rest of the group will likely join in. The damage can be horrific. None of the other variations are better.There are four tactics that I have known to prevent a Monkey Dance. Three require special abilities. The most obvious and the easiest was an act of such overwhelming violence that it shocks and scares the group. An officer and friend stopped a riot in a jail by walking into the module, grabbing the largest of the rioting inmates, spinning him in the air and slamming him in to the ground. Not many people can snatch up a 240-pound man and lift him overhead.The second is to make the threats laugh. That’s hard to do. Don’t count on it. The things that make a group of people who enjoy hurting others laugh are not the same things that tickle audiences in nightclubs. This will not work if the GMD was triggered by betrayal or a perceived betrayal.The third tactic is to increase either the doubt or the danger level. If the threats know that you are armed, it raises their risk. Looters in major disturbances famously avoid armed premises in favor of unarmed. I generally don’t advocate ever showing a weapon, except, perhaps in this case. Like any time that you show a weapon, if the threat display doesn’t work, you will almost certainly have to use the weapon or it will be taken away and used against you.People who have allies, back-up or a reputation for fighting all raise the risk. People who do not respond like victims, who stay unusually calm or act strangely increase the doubt. Neither of these will matter in betrayal or some random acts of group violence but they might dissuade a group lacking in confidence without a personal issue with you, the victim.The fourth and most effective tactic is to get the hell out of there. Run.
I've read some other criticism, mostly reactions to this post. I don't worry about the criticism. Everything seemed to be arguing against what they imagine I teach, not what I actually teach.
But Charles is a good guy, and a smart one. So this seems to be a good time to talk about what I actually do teach. Not the SD law stuff. Most of that is in "Facing Violence". The philosophy and concepts.
I don't teach Force Law as a decision making skill. For two reasons. In most ugly situations things are going to be coming thick and fast and you won't have time to make conscious decisions. The idea that every force decision is weighed as if a reasonable person had time to think is something of a legal fiction.
The second reason is that in most cases self-defense law is intuitively obvious. A lot of laws are just codifications of local ideas of common sense. If you were raised in this culture and you aren't a pathological asshole, you will make good self-defense decisions.
Does anybody here want to use force if they don't absolutely have to? Anyone want to kill another human being if there is any other option? Anyone want to hurt someone more than they absolutely have to? It's really that simple.
There are gray areas. Not as many as you think. Most cases of real self-defense are pretty clear cut. If you, with no criminal record and ties to the community, prevail over an intruder in your home... not hard to argue. Even outside the home, local cops tend to know the bad guys.
The murky ones tend to fall into a category called AvANHI, or Asshole versus Asshole, No Humans Involved. It's harsh and politically incorrect, but when you have a drug dealing piece of shit killing a pimping piece of shit over a business deal gone bad, or an alcohol fueled domestic where both parties stabbed each other...it's hard to tell what is self defense and what is simple assholery.
And there are some jurisdictions where I get the sense that anything you do with a gun will be prosecuted. Politics does come into this.
And there are a few ways that citizens (which is cop slang for normal, good people) can screw up. One is the monkey dance. People are very good at self-deception and will often convince themselves that something they participated in fully was self-defense. Hence, "He started it" is a gradeschool defense, not a legal defense.
The second is when it is over and there is a compulsion to give the bad guy a few more hits to teach a lesson.
So I teach it as an articulation class. It covers all of the elements of a decision making class (and that's a good way to find if the students glitch). The focus is different. A drill for analyzing (and thus articulating) your subconscious decision making processes. The elements of a self-defense claim. How not to talk to the arresting officers without pissing them off. How to find a good attorney quickly. Articulation wars.
It's got to be combined with violence dynamics. You need to understand the significance of what you are seeing and be able to explain that to a jury who may have never met a bad guy. And this is one of the secret minor advantages: For some people if they can explain it to a jury, or feel they can, they can explain it to themselves and that might give them permission to act.
“What you lookin’ at?” barks a young man. He's about your size, about your age. You don’t think you were looking at anything in particular. You also know the smart thing to do is to give a little apology and go back to your beer.But you’re a young man yourself. Before you even realize it, you are looking dead in his eyes and saying, “Who wants to know?”“You trying to be smart?”“What if I am?” You aren’t sure who stood up first but both of you are standing now. His skin is getting red. He’s flexing his shoulders, looking bigger. You can’t see yourself and you don’t even think about it, but you are doing the same thing. More words are exchanged, some pretty colorful profanities and both of you step closer and closer. The veins in his neck and forehead are bulging and his jaw muscles are clenching whenever he isn’t insulting youYou throw a quick glance at the other patrons. Everyone is watching but no one is doing a thing.He gets closer, too close, and you push him away, hard.He responds with a looping overhand punch. In a moment you are a tangle, rolling on the floor and throwing wild punches until somebody pulls you apart.You never even thought of the weapon holstered on your hip, and that’s a good thing.There’s a myth or saying in the martial arts: “When two tigers fight, one is killed and the other is maimed.” It’s just further evidence that many of the early martial artists were shitty observers of nature. When two tigers fight, there’s a dominance display and, if one doesn’t back down, something like a scuffle. Neither is injured. One leaves, the other keeps the territory.When a tiger kills a goat, that’s a whole different story.That right there is the difference between a dominance contest within a species (social violence) and killing for resources—usually food—outside your species (asocial violence.)The term Monkey Dance was coined in the book “Meditations on Violence” to describe the human dominance ritual. It’s a deliberately ridiculous name for a ridiculous pattern of behavior. But it is a pattern that young men are conditioned to follow.It has, or had, it’s purpose. Groups function best with a clearly defined hierarchy. When the status is in doubt, it will be clarified. This is why most Monkey Dances within a group are pretty evenly matched. If status is clear, there is no need. It’s also done to impress peers and, especially, ladies…and it showcases the things that made a good mate when we roamed the savannah 100,000 years ago: strength and persistence and a willingness to do battle.Those are also the reason why it is so safe. This is an in-group fight and seriously injuring other members of the group weaken us all. What is less likely to do damage then using the fragile hand bones to hit the top/front of the skull? That is almost always the first move in a Monkey Dance.We have all seen the script many, many times. It usually begins with a hard look, followed by a verbal challenge, often, as above, “What’re you lookin at?” Both members play and once you get sucked into the script, your normal, logical brain is not in control. Your limbic system has been doing this dance since before humans even existed. It will hijack you.Unless you see it coming and exert will to exit.The verbal challenges will continue and escalate. The parties will stand, approach. Usually skin will flush and they will stand square on, bobbing up and down on their toes, subconsciously flexing. Square on, bobbing and even flushing rather than going pale are NOT good survival or fighting tactics. They are threat displays, subconscious attempts to look bigger and more impressive.If neither backs down or friends don’t intervene, the verbal shit will continue and the two will get closer until one moves. The first contact will almost always be a two-handed push on the chest or poking the index finger into the chest. This part is cultural. In western Canada, they knock the baseball cap off.That is answered either with a two-handed push or the looping overhand right that almost always opens the fight stage. Two adrenalized people both stepping in and throwing big punches quickly turns into a clinch and usually falls to the ground. The falling to the ground is the place where serious injury may occur.That is the pattern for establishing dominance. Dominance is not always or even usually about who is the leader, or even who is above who in a hierarchy. Most groups have roles, and you will see this pattern when two people want the same role. If you introduce a new guy who happens to be funny to a group that already has an established joker, the pattern will begin with a contest for funny jokes that will then get personal, targeting each other, then vicious…and then proceed to the Monkey Dance.The steps listed above will often be followed when a new person or group goes into a place with established clientele. A bar is the obvious example. The usual endpoint is not a fight, but when friends pull the two apart. That is the perfect face-saving exit: no one is injured, both have established a willingness (real or not) to engage and both have the ego-saving belief that only the people holding them back prevented an epic ass-whuppin’.
De-Escalating the Monkey DanceThe Monkey Dance is the most common and the most avoidable of the social violence types. It can usually be avoided with a simple apology. It can be defused with submissive body language—an apology, down cast eyes.It can also often be simply bypassed:“What are YOU lookin’ at?”“Huh? Oh, didn’t know. Worked all night last night I must have zoned out for a minute.” Bypassing requires extremely relaxed body language. And a low, slow, slightly puzzled tone of voice really helps. If the guy keeps fishing, treat the follow-ups as thoughtful questions. Don’t Monkey Dance back and don’t become agitated or show anger.If you get caught in a Monkey Dance and don’t realize it until you are a few steps down the road, apologize (a simple ‘sorry’ no explanation) put your hands up, palms out (both shows peaceful intent and makes a classic ‘fence’ which is a very good thing when things go bad) and back away. Then leave the area.
Dangers of the Monkey DanceFalling and hitting your head is the only danger inherent in the Monkey Dance. Damage that might occur in the fight is usually cosmetic. But sometimes other things are going on.· If you have violated a social rule in a place where such things are handled by violence, that is not a Monkey Dance. Corrective violence will be discusses in a future article. Generally, this type of violence will come with instructions, e.g. “Apologize to the lady or I will kick your ass.” Apologize. No weasel words. This isn’t about dominance. It is about you showing disrespect for a way of life or a culture. To avoid corrective action you must acknowledge that there was a rule and you broke it and that you now understand: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you, ma’am.”· If the normal de-escalations don’t work, you may be facing a special case. The MD has rules. Generally, if one side backs down, the dance is over. If someone won’t let you back down or accept an apology, especially if the threat closes to striking range, you are likely facing a specialized predator who enjoys beating people. If an audience of cronies is gathering around for the show, it could be very bad. If people unaffiliated with this guy start looking really uncomfortable and nervous, they may know his patterns.· If one breaks the rules of the dance. One guy apologizes and walks away and then decides to get the last word in and say some shit as he is leaving. That will trigger some bad things, probably a beating for show. If one of the parties draws a weapon there will be serious repercussions and not just legal. The MD happens in a social environment. The person will get a reputation for being afraid and unable to “handle himself.” What may appear manly (and that’s what the MD is about, right?) actually appears cowardly.· If there is no audience, expect that the MD challenge is a pretext for a predatory assault. Social violence more or less requires an audience or a relationship between the parties.
Possibly the greatest danger in the Monkey Dance, for most people, is legal. It is not self-defense. No matter how big he was or who started it, there are too many opportunities to walk away for a Monkey Dance fight to be called self-defense. Even if you are losing, you are losing a grade school-level fistfight. Lethal response will not be justified. In fact, in some jurisdictions which explicitly state that aggressors cannot claim self-defense an exception is made if the victim introduces the possibility of lethal force. For just two examples, see Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/7‑4 Ch. 38, par. 7‑4 or Montana code 45-3-105.“He started it,” is a grade school defense, not a legal defense.
The techniques that fall under martial arts are basically heinous crimes except in a very narrow set of circumstances. We are playing at causing pain and suffering. You can choose to be mindless about that and see it as a fun hobby.
But if your students (or you) ever need to use it, it will be harsh and both emotionally and physically challenging. Uncomfortable. Can you be rude to a stranger? If you are reading this in a coffee shop, can you look up right now, pick someone at random and say, "You are ugly and stupid" and then go back to reading? If not, I submit that you will have an even harder time hitting a stranger. (And if your introspection muscles are fit, you can pick over your self-analysis of why you don't want to be rude to a stranger and find out some of the things that will freeze you in self-defense.)
Training for self-defense presents challenges, and some of those challenges border on contradictions. Just to name a few:
1) The people that need self-defense tend to be the ones least likely to seek it out. Being in denial of the existence of danger is one of the deep underlying factors of making people victims. If you are in denial of the problem, you have no reason to seek solutions.
2) The most effective stuff is the stuff that mimics the real thing. Which means it is hard and hurts and is scary. My sensei estimated that for every yudansha he promoted he had over 5000 start. Why so low? "Because jujutsu hurts, Rory. You can get a blackbelt other places in half the time and it doesn't hurt every day." And that means, again, that the people who most need it, the ones who are afraid of physical pain (and that's what predators want in a victim) try to find a safe, easy and painless way to learn about fear and pain.
3) The ones that seek out and enjoy intensity and contact tend to be a pretty specific demographic, and they have a specific vibe and they tend to get targeted for no more than a monkey dance and even then, only if they hang with immature people.
One of the biggest challenges, when you are teaching victim profiles, is managing their comfort zones. You must create a safe place to practice unsafe things. And you have to create a comfortable way to destroy comfort zones.
This is one of the reasons why SD has to be taught to individuals, not as a check-the-box program. Comfort means completely different things to different people. For the guys who came up through the contact martial arts, if they aren't nursing a serious injury, they're comfortable. For someone with no exposure, they tend not to even think of physical comfort but emotional comfort. There's no real pain in a sweaty, hairy guy holding you in a pin, but that is way outside the comfort zone of almost everybody who really needs this training. This is nothing to us, but a very big something to other people.
We're getting a generation of children who have been discouraged from rough-housing, who don't climb (and fall out of) trees like we did. Youngsters, these days... but seriously, we used to play mumplety peg (our version was a knife throwing game to see who could get closest to the other guy's foot) on school grounds.
They have to be taught, slowly and gently, from the ground up, how much fun it is to brawl. I still remember IM's wicked grin when she threw Steve-the-Gorilla. But it had taken a long time for IM to learn it was okay to clinch, throw, grapple and hit a person. And longer to think it was fun. But when she grasped the fun...
Which means they have to be successful. Not discouraged. Never punished for doing well. And as confidence increases... no scratch that. What the hell is confidence anyway except for a completely untestable faith that things will be okay? As the sense of fun increases, you increase the intensity. Until the student is doing things that would have been unimaginable in the beginning.
But, at some point, you have to overwhelm them. This is iffy. There are a few of us who love feeling overwhelmed. That feeling of too much information coming too fast and I can't understand it all-- that's become my signal that I'm on the edge of a great learning experience. Over the years, I've been conditioned to love that feeling because the reward at the end, the learning and insight is incredibly sweet. Friend Sam, when he started BJJ, described it as "The pleasure of drowning."
Some of us thrive on it, but very few beginners.
But it has to happen. Not every day. Rarely for some students. But all confidence is, in certain circumstances, false. Regardless of your physical monstrosity, your skills and weapons and anything else you want to name, there is stuff out there that can crush you like a bug on a windshield. Students (and teachers) need to be reminded of this. Because this is what keeps us humble and keeps us learning.
So you overwhelm them so that you can show them the next steps. So that they realize what they know, but also what they do not know. Overwhelm, but (with one exception) do not crush. There is a difference between overwhelmed and "there's no hope nothing works so why bother." A bad SD instructor can create an incredibly passive victim.
The exception? Almost never appropriate, but there are ways to force someone to face personal mortality in such a way that it causes some profound changes to their personality. Unfortunately, it crushes about 50% even of hand-picked, contact-experienced senior practitioners. The ones it doesn't crush get roughly an order of magnitude better.
The Baby Elephant Story
My lovely wife went to a karate camp years (decades now?) ago and they told her that students were like elephants. When you are raising an elephant in captivity, you chain the baby elephant's ankle. It struggles and pulls and can't break the chain. Once the baby elephant learns it can't break the chain, it quits trying, and you can immobilize a full grown elephant with a piece of string.
Your students will come to you with all kinds of bullshit beliefs about what they can't do. (The bullshit fantasies about what they can do tend to come from experienced martial artists.) Your job is to prove them wrong. It's not hard, but it has to be done carefully.
And I am getting back to this because I don't want to lose the thread, not because I don't have other things to write about. Those will have to wait, though. Let's get started.
Like most predatory species, humans have two distinctive modes of violence. These modes are qualitatively different on many levels—emotionally, intellectually, how they are carried out and even the common effect. Like other mammals, humans simple don’t use the same skills on our own kind that we use on food.A schoolyard fight is qualitatively different from butchering a chicken. Killing a chicken is quick, efficient and deadly. I won’t say, “no muss no fuss” because it can be really messy, but you are just turning an animal into meat.A schoolyard fight (or any of the other manifestations of social violence, from domestic abuse to war) involves a lot of muss and fuss. People, with a few exceptions, need to get angry before they fight each other. Angry, afraid, indignant-- but there needs to be an emotional content. It is slow. No one can look at a schoolyard fist fight as a model of efficiency and even when the combatants have trained to be efficiently dangerous, as some martial artists, their skills rarely manifest in a real fight.And even when they do, it is not the same. Kris Wilder interviewed me this morning. The podcast will be available sooner or later on Martial Secrets. Kris, like me was raised killing his own food. Butchering animals. His technique was to shake a hat at the steer, below the steer's nose. the steer would look down at the hat and you would put a .22 LR bullet into the sweet spot. Distract/Bang. 1200 pound steer dead as toast. No muss. No fuss.Even skilled people don't fight like that, because they fight. They don't just eliminate. Distract/Bang works just as well on people as it does on cattle. But if we are in our sovial modes we'll forget that.And don't forget, social violence needs an audience.In the end, we fight people, but we simply kill animals.Humans are amazing creatures, though. It has occurred to some of us and been tested over time that we can, if we choose, use the skills of hunting and butchering on each other. It is rare. Very few people are wired to kill cold and often people who have made the conscious decision to kill still need to get angry, still need to make a show.But it can be done. The three previous lessons (On the survival, need, and identity predator) covered the thought processes of, and how to deal with, the rare but very dangerous human who can treat you like a sandwich.This series of lessons will cover the patterns of social violence so that you will have a leg up on identifying which are dangerous and how you can avoid them.Humans are social primates. We are not strong or fast or stealthy. As survival expert Toby Cowern says, “As animals, we’re crap. We have no business being at the top of the food chain. Except for our brains.” Our brains allow us to adapt and learn, but our primary survival strategy is the group. We cooperate. We live and work together.It’s not always comfortable. Humans don’t automatically like other humans, but most humans have a deep desire to be liked based on a deep fear of being alone.Long ago, I noticed that if you hand a friend a baby and the baby doesn’t smile, the friend will get goofier and goofier until he gets a reaction. Seeking acknowledgement from a baby who could barely focus her eyes.Being a bastard, I did an experiment and reversed it, started holding babies and staying completely expressionless. It turns out a baby, only days old, will also get goofier and goofier trying to get a smile from me. That’s some pretty deep wiring.Need for a group, deep wiring, and the fact that conflict will arise implies that there must be strategies for dealing with conflict within the group. Strategies for social violence.Unlike hunting (asocial violence) the purpose of social violence is rarely to kill. Killing within the group weakens the group, both through lost numbers and in trust. Social violence follows patterns just like language does because it is a form of communication. And it is something we have lived with every day of our lives, so we all know the patterns.Raised as many of us were to believe that violence and conflict are inherently wrong, we have to establish some foundation. Conflict is inevitable. Until we have a world of infinite resources, someone will have more than someone else and someone will resent that. Unless everyone is genetically engineered to be exactly the same, young men will vie for the attention of the prettiest girls. If something is inevitable, I don’t see the value in calling it ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ That’s like trying to put a value judgment on gravity.Conflict will lead to violence if the needs driving the conflict are not satisfied in another way. If your children are hungry you will get them fed…and if nothing else will work, you will kill the chicken yourself.If your child insists on running into the street, you will escalate through a disciplinary series of actions: yelling or a time out or grounding or… and it is the child, not you, who decides when the escalation stops. If you refuse to take the punishment to the level at which the child will respond, the child will do whatever he or she damn well pleases and maybe get killed, or maybe just run rough-shod over you. If you have naturally good kids who always respond at the ‘raised voice’ level those are good kids. That doesn’t make you a strong or even a good parent.
Social conflict has certain very specific goals.1) To establish and maintain the identity of the group. There is no group without outsiders. Your family is your family. The other six billion or so people in the world are not. If you attempt to include everyone in a group, there is no group.Group identity conflict manifests in a number of ways. Though the intensity may be different, a college fraternity hazing, a gang ‘beating in,’ and the selection process for an elite military unit follow the same dynamic. Violence (or, in the military case, induced stress) can be used as a rite of passage, something you must pass through to be one of us.It also manifests in how outsiders are identified and treated. Why do both participants in a domestic violence situation sometimes turn on the responding officer? Because he is seen as an outsider trying to take control of an in-group problem. The underlying dynamic is the same as the “Mississippi Burning” murders, and similar to a lynching. It enabled the death camps.The scale may differ. The explanations, excuses and justifications may differ. But the dynamic is the same.
2) Social conflict establishes territory and the access to territory. In the savannah, different species share water holes. They could turn every instance of getting water into a fight to the death, but they don’t. Pushing another group to extreme desperation might be quite costly.That said, access isn’t free. A troop of baboons who go to a water hole watch each other, protect each other, do threat displays and do their best to let everyone know that they will fight. If they fail to do this they will be killed or driven off.Human on human, this ranges from tagging a gang’s turf to crossing a border checkpoint to everyone checking out an unfamiliar face in a local watering hole. The dynamic is the same. Groups will mark territory, they will defend territory and there will be a protocol for crossing or entering territory… and trespassers will be punished.
3) Social conflict establishes hierarchy and roles. Almost all species have a ritualized ‘combat’ between males of the same species. Deer, bighorn sheep, bear, even snakes have a type of fight that looks like violence. But it is never the way the same species kill prey and it is almost never lethal.Two bighorn sheep butt heads. One gets the herd of females, the other walks away.In humans it is a little more complicated. We don’t vie for a single top spot where only the alpha male gets to breed. We do need to have a place.In any group you can think of there have been certain roles. Most groups have a leader, someone who comes up with ideas about what to do and generally gets everybody in trouble. The group will also have a “go-to” member. When something needs to get done or a problem needs to be solved, you bring it to the go-to, not to the leader.Almost every group has a joker. And someone who listens to personal problems and offers comfort. Many have a scapegoat, one member of the group that everyone picks on and is treated like shit. There is a clue there. Many people would rather be treated badly in a group than not be in a group at all.The stress of a child moving to a new school or an adult moving to a new job or team isn’t a fear of not belonging, of being cast out. It is a fear of being forced into a role they despise or having no role at all.All of us have a few preferred roles.
4) Social conflict establishes and enforces the rules of the group. In many ways, rule enforcement is a subset of identity enforcement. A group without rules and norms isn’t an identifiable group at all. Further, the rules that are enforced do not need to make sense and are often ‘carriers’ for tribal identity. All people in history ate. There is no identity in that. What they eat, how they prepared it and what it is served on or in, those make up pieces of culture.When someone breaks rules, it may be a challenge to the group’s cohesion or a challenge to the group’s survival. In more primitive, marginal times there wasn’t a lot of distinction between those things. A group at odds with itself had a much harder time surviving.
5) Social conflict, specifically having mechanisms to deal with social conflict, are intended to keep the group going with minimal change. Even something as egregiously dysfunctional as the abuse cycle of domestic violence serves this function. As long as the pattern is repeated, the group is stable.It seems illogical, but dying for the group is a time-honored tradition. We could not have soldiers without this part of the human condition. No firemen would brave flames or cops go on patrol. The dynamic that keeps a woman in an abusive relationship is the same.
Very few of the patterns of social violence result in anything approaching the violence of even casual asocial attacks. The human instinct to fistfight, for instance, pits fragile hand bones against the skull. Hands are broken quite often but life-threatening injury is usually by falling and hitting an object.There are exceptions, however, and those will be addressed in future articles.
Social violence follows specific, recognizable patterns:
- The Monkey Dance (for status, to establish access)
- The Group Monkey Dance (Boundary setting; bonding or betrayal)
- The Educational Beat Down (rules enforcement)
- The Status Seeking Show: The exception.
The last of a three part series with Datu Kelly Worden. If you thought the last two episodes where blunt, wait until you feel the blunt force trauma that is waiting for you as Datu spells out the failures of society today and what we as people are turning into. Plus other topics including Bruce Lee, and Master Remy Presas.
Remember USM J. Jone's three rules: Anything you teach must work moving or standing still, must work when you are adrenalized and, number one, anything you teach must have a tactical use.
Combat sports train hard, but they train within a ruleset. Does that make it wrong? Does it balance out? Check this-- I'd much rather have a student who knows that he trains within a ruleset than one that pretends he doesn't. I've been asked too many times not to do certain things in schools that declared they were 'real street fighting' 'reality based' and 'no rules.' It is the subconscious rules that will get you killed.
Train within a ruleset and you will forget to cheat. The harder you train the more ingrained, the more subconscious, the rules have to be. So you will forget to cheat. Until the bad guy reminds you. Then you can cheat. And since competitors train hard and expect to get hurt if they are unprepared, their fundamentals tend to be pretty good. And fundamentals come first. Get those down and then cheat.
That said, there are some things that are dangerous to practice live. The koryu follow-throughs on the hip throws. Finger locks (a pair of two-hundred-pound guys rolling around playing with tiny joints will break things). I think when someone racks up the permanent injury rate, knee locks and heel hooks may be disallowed in sports the way judo took them out long before I was born. The rabbit punch (inward and upward to the first cervical vertebra). Throat chops and spears. Eye gouges.
And eye gouges is the one I want to talk about. Because they usually don't work. Not that they aren't harmful. I have permanent damage to my left eye from a finger gouge. But...
Eye gouges present the possibility of blinding (unlikely) or partial blinding. Since deadly force includes the concept of 'grievous bodily harm' and blinding falls under that definition, eye gouges are deadly force. You need to be able to justify deadly force if you use one. Here's the deal: If I need deadly force it's because I want to stop the threat now. The situation needs to be over. IME, eye gouges don't do that.
The first time I was deliberately eye-gouged it was in a 'friendly' sparring match. And it did work to the extent that I let go of a perfectly good strangle hold. The second time, I knew better, and just tucked my head into his neck. The third time (not sparring) I kicked him off me and got back to my feet before his friend (actually brother, according to the police report) could engage again. The fourth time, a baby wanted to play with her sleeping dad's marbles and tried to get one out of my eye socket. The closest I have come to being blind in one eye (and it was touch and go) was done by a baby.
So, on the good side, it doesn't take any strength or skill. A baby can do permanent injury to a grown man.
But it also doesn't work. It's a deadly force technique that reliably gets two things:
1) A flinch. Most people will pull their head away from something digging in their eye or eyes. And that's good.
2) Anger. You've just told this person what level you are willing to take it to.
Trust me, if deadly force is necessary, you don't friggin' announce it. Maybe to prevent force, e.g. you hear a noise in your home late at night you might consider announcing you are armed. But like any announcement, you gamble the advantage of surprise against the threat's willingness to escalate. Your call.
Once you have used an eye gouge, the threat will get angry. Will realize what you are willing to do. Will remember, if he was sport-trained, that cheating is on the table. Will feel an urge to punish you. Some of you have been in a fight where the goal escalated from winning or gathering a resource to teaching a lesson. You know what that entails.
As bad as it was, and I have to assume it was pretty bad if your instinct was to gouge eyes, it will now get worse. Think of it this way-- If some stranger gouged your eyes, would your reaction be to quit fighting? Or to fight for all you are worth?
And that is one of the training artifacts. In almost any training venue, it is safe to stop fighting. There are many things that stop training fights that fail to stop or even escalate assault situations. One of the reasons that eye gouges have their reputation, I think, is because they do stop friendly matches.
Two other things, details if you will. It is highly likely that there is some sampling error here. Most of my ugly fights have been with someone who had prepared to try to take out an officer. My threats were likely more dedicated and had more to lose than a similar threat choosing a potential rape victim. The pain of an eye gouge may well make a less dedicated threat run. My experience doesn't make things true for other people in other situations.
Second-- Never done it but it is theoretically possible (and I have heard a lot of people teach this but none of them have done it either) to stabilize the head (like against a wall or the floor) and drive your thumbs or a tool through the eye, through the thin bone at the back of the orbital socket, and into the squishy brain. That would probably, in fact, be a fight-stopper.
Just because something hurts a lot and has permanent crippling effects (which sounds good, right?) doesn't automatically mean it has a tactical use. Doesn't automatically mean it will work for what you need it for.
As always, just my opinion and from my experience.
"Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creative.”
The martial arts world is chock full of techniques which are often very complicated and highly imaginative...a lot like a Rube Goldberg machine.
In case you're not familiar with the cartoons of Rube Goldberg, there's a spot on description from a character in Adam Felber's Schrödinger's Ball: "You know: a lever is pulled, causing a boot to kick a dog, whose bark motivates a hamster to run on a wheel which winds a pulley that raises a gate that releases a bowling ball and so on? Until, at the end, finally, the machine does something incredibly mundane, like making a piece of toast.”
Here's a simple question to ask when evaluating a martial arts technique or tactic: Are you sure, ABSOLUTELY SURE, this is gonna work?
Just because it looks good in a demonstration or a choreographed fight sequence, or just because it appears to work in a training environment with a cooperative opponent, does not mean it will work when push comes to shove in a real-world situation.
What do we even mean when we ask "will it work?" And is it even all that important that we train with this purpose in mind?
Some techniques may be said to 'work' but have no immediate or direct combat applications. Look at Karate's sanchin kata for example. It consists of strenuous deep breathing, isometric type contractions of the major muscle groups and a specific stance with limited mobility. Proponents will tell you that it 'works' because it helps in developing one's inner power, focus, and breathing. Judo has kata which train specific throws, pins, and self defense moves, but there are also kata which demonstrate more subtle movements--for example, Koshiki No Kata, with its almost waltzing type footwork. I am sure that judoka will tell you that there are important attributes in this particular kata, and that ultimately one becomes better in action after having mastered these moves.
But I'm not really talking about attribute training or exercise routines that may or may not have direct relevance to fight training. I'm talking about combative moves.
I like the motto of the TV show Mythbusters: "They don't just tell the myths, they put them to the test." Using scientific protocol the cast of the show looks at myths and urban legends, and after rigorous testing they determine whether the myth is confirmed, plausible or busted.
In the field of physics there are theoretical physicists and experimental physicists. "Theoretical physics is the kind of physics that Einstein did," says Jonathan Gardner. "He would think of things, and then do the math, and find out interesting formula and patterns, and new ways to describe old things." Experimental physicists, on the other hand, "spend the majority of their brainpower figuring out how to coax new results out of nature, which is very difficult given the constraints of technology and limited resources."
A martial artist involved in a combat sport has an approach more similar to experimental physics. In most combat sports the question of whether a technique works rarely comes up. Like the Mythbusters, there is ample opportunity to put a technique to the test in MMA, Boxing, Wrestling, Sambo, Muay Thai Kick Boxing, Savate, Judo, and BJJ. In these sports there is a resisting opponent and conditions which allow an outcome where one competitor may be able to dominate the other using superior tactics. But in non-competitive martial arts, there is often only a subjective analysis of the efficacy of a technique. For the non-competitive martial artist, determining whether a technique works is usually a matter of conjecture--a 'what if' mind experiment similar to what a theoretical physicist would do.
Janet Stemwedel, in Scientific American, says that credible scientists can lay out the following:
- Here’s my hypothesis.
- Here’s what you’d expect to observe if the hypothesis is true.
- Here, on the other hand, is what you’d expect to observe if the hypothesis is false.
- Here’s what we actually observed (and here are the steps we took to control the other variables).
- Here’s what we can say (and with what degree of certainty) about the hypothesis in the light of these results.
- Here’s the next study we’d like to do to be even more sure. (1)
A technique can be said to be effective if the result or outcome of using the technique meets specific goals and objectives:
- It must work in a highly mobile, chaotic environment
- It must work against a resisting, non-compliant attacker
- It must neutralize the attacker's force
- It must work with little or no preparation
- It works in a wide spectrum of situations
Techniques which are downright worthless, or at least suspicious, would be those which are:
- Dependent on some force beyond physics
- Dependent on very specific conditions
- Dependent on very specific responses from the attacker
- Highly technical and/or difficult to explain
- Complicated, containing too much precision and flourish, with too much emphasis on aesthetics
- Too dependent on rote memory
- Too risky; i.e., a poor cost/benefit ratio
- Too constrained by rules and standards
Quick Maslow recap:The basic idea is that there are five states or levels of struggle. Each level must be addressed in order.The most basic level includes survival needs: food, water, shelter and protection from immediate dangers. If any of these are threatened, you don’t really care about much else.The second level is security needs: Will you have food tomorrow? Will you be safe tomorrow?The third and fourth levels are social—the need to belong and the need to have status or esteem within the group.Dr. Maslow theorized that if these four basic levels were secure, each individual could then move to a higher level, become “self-actualized” and start living the dream.It’s a good theory and it is widely applicable to issues of conflict and violence. Not just in possible motivations but also in identifying our own blind spots. Our ancestors took care of our survival and security needs long ago. Few people become self-actualized enough to truly live their dreams. Most of us struggle at the third and fourth levels, the social levels. Our conflicts have been social: who is in charge? Who does the boss like better? Will she think that I am a wimp? Who does this guy think he is? Will I fit in?When our experience with conflict has been all social, we default to those strategies, especially under stress. The last two lessons talked about how violence can arise from the lower level needs and how that violence is qualitatively different than social violence.Today is all about violence arising from the highest level of personal development. Self-actualized violence. Identity violence.In college, we were told that self-actualization was positive, the source of all creativity and altruism (…and that struck me wrong right there, for there are countless stories of altruism and heroism when survival and security are threatened.)When I revisited Maslow at the Police Academy supervisory course I was cautioned against hiring self-actualized people: “They do what they want to do, not what you tell them to do.”The thing is, if you are a generally good person and take care of all your basic and social needs, you have the confidence to take risks in being a good person. You become a better person. And if you were a dick and achieve self-actualization, you become a self-actualized dick.They are relatively rare, but self-actualized predators exist, and they are very different than other predators. They do not hurt, humiliate or degrade to fulfill a need, not in the sense of needing food or needing drugs. They enjoy the act. They enjoy the begging victim, the sensation of killing or raping or conning. It is no longer something they do. It is who they are. And it is possibly the only thing that makes them feel alive.The psychobabble gets in the way here, as urges and desires get called needs, as predators in interviews subtly present something they wanted to do as something they needed to do. You may have a hobby or career that you love, the one thing that makes you feel good, the hallmark of your identity… but you could walk away. You can’t walk away from air. Intense desire is qualitatively different than a need. Remember that when predators rationalize their behavior.On the other hand, if you DO have a hobby that is the most important thing in your life, the one thing that makes you feel complete and whole, the one endeavor where the world makes sense (how many 30+ year martial artists are reading this?) you have a handle on this mindset. Horrific as it may sound, some get the satisfaction from beating and rape that you get from your hobby.Their acts have become their identity. They no longer merely kill or rape. This predator IS a rapist. IS a murderer. Less violent, but on the same dynamic, are the professional conmen and grifters.A young man in custody for stabbing a girl told detectives that it was the most awesome feeling of his life, the ultimate rush…and since that day he had been looking for a chance to stab someone else and feel it again without getting caught.A man questioned about two rapes he confessed to: “To be completely honest? They were the best experiences of my life.”This is a hard thing for most of us to wrap our minds around. We can barely imagine motivations that might drive us to extreme violence—desperation, revenge, or to save something (a country) or someone that we value greatly. Most of us can’t really imagine loving it, finding our true selves in the tears and bruises of a woman begging for mercy.And it is a mistake to assume that because we cannot truly grasp it, it is not happening.Like predators driven by need, predators driven by the love of the act, the process, learn the skills. Most start out very inefficient. Some make elaborate plans and many love the planning process, the watching… but in their early attempts at mayhem they are often clumsy and unprepared for the messy reality (like many who study self-defense). It is my belief that many serial killers start their careers late because they get caught after these tentative explorations.They become efficient with time. They become skilled.Not driven by withdrawals or addictions, they are also not distracted by pain. Some deny that they are different than other people. One told me that he only does what everyone else desires to do and that all others are bound by fear. He felt he was only special in his bravery…but his victims were always small and weak.Many understand that they are different, and different becomes better in one’s own mind very quickly. This is important with questions of rehabilitation. have you ever 'fixed' someone who believed he is smarter and already better than you? I have never once met a violent criminal who had doubts about his own superiority over both his victims and the society trying to 'fix' him. (See last section of this post.)Most people follow social rules and are never consciously aware of them. It’s not just that most of us do the right thing, we do the right things without it occurring to us that it is an option. I hold my hand out, you shake it. You have a choice, but if your job or life involves meeting people frequently, you will shake my hand before it occurs to you that there is a choice.Identity predators see these choices, and feel superior because others do not. The predator thinks, his victims follow their instincts.This is a deadly distinction. I’ve said again and again in these lessons that it is a mistake to equate social conflict with other types… not only is it a deadly mistake, but the process predator is not blinded by fear or need or pain. He knows the social games and he will use them.Social violence is rarely dangerous and almost always completely predictable. As long as a skilled predator can keep you in your social mode, as long as you keep trying social strategies he has absolute confidence that:1) You are completely predictable and2) You will not be able to bring yourself to hurt him
Not only are social scripts ineffective, they will actively be used against you. And used to increase the victim’s pain and humiliation as the survivor agonizes over social strategies (which often include pleading or flattering), wondering, sometimes for years, if they somehow encouraged the violence.Identity predators have much in common with need predators. The will become efficient over time. They have othered the victim to a level that allows extreme force. They will avoid witnesses.They are discouraged by the same things as well. Raising the stakes is the most effective. A credible threat of force discourages the threat. They do not, generally, like pain and do fear injury. You can lower the stakes, but this can be hard because many process predators have a 'type' a specific victim profile and it is impossible to know in advance what a specific predator's type is. Generally, though, if the payoff is to see someone scream and beg an indifferent or stoic demeanor may be somewhat effective...except for the ones who need the challenge. As with Resource Predators, lowering the stakes is the least effective and least reliable strategy.The payoff for an identity predator is primarily emotional. This is not a strategy I recommend as a first choice, but some may be discouraged if the designated victim doesn’t play the victim role ‘right’. For adult and violent crimes, the strategy is nearly worthless, but for dealing with bullies, whether on the playground or in the office, it is imperative that you never become an entertaining victim.The identity predator has one more twist that is not shared with the need predator. Because the identity predator enjoys the process, the process can be quite drawn-out. Emotional pain may be as satisfying as physical pain.Low level (non-violent or low-level violence) predators may enjoy bullying and degrading people without ever obviously harming them. They enjoy not only having a submissive partner but making the partner be submissive in public.And this is something very important to understand about the conflict/violence scale: process predators who enjoy emotional abuse will never, ever admit that what they do is violent. And there is a huge amount of this type of emotional violence perpetrated by self-righteous people convinced that because their cause is just (in their own eyes) or it is "for the greater good" that what they do is not emotional abuse. And they are just as skilled in evading personal responsibility or introspection as any serial rapist. But what they do differs no in kind, but merely on the scale of physicality.More violent predators may use social skills and social pressure to keep the victims from talking, or even to ensure that they are available for further victimization. In Iraq, Saddam’s Mukhabarat were notorious for video taping their sexual assaults and then using the threat of the videos to elicit more victimization…In some cases, especially with predators who victimize children, the target will be ‘groomed’ into a victim personality. The will be taught that acquiescence is the best survival strategy. Victims will systematically be denied control of their own lives. In a dynamic called ‘learned helplessness’ they will be showered with gifts or with punishment, randomly… so random that they never learn the triggers and come to believe that they have no control and should just obey.None of these mindsets are so alien that we can’t understand them, but none of them respond to social controls or social expectations…and for entirely logical reasons.
First the plugs:
Knife maker, sword maker, one of the necromancers reviving the historical European martial arts (HEMA) and amateur military historian Paul MacDonald is living the dream. His Fairbairn/Sykes daggers are in pretty high demand with troops on deployment, and you've gotta love a guy who asks if you want a wall hanger or a cutter because he tempers them differently...
And coolest of the cool: His training group is for HEMA and WWII combatives. A combination that makes a ridiculous amount of sense. Is anyone else doing both?
Is also living the dream. Manages the Bow Bar, which has a selection of over 200 single malts. Tasted some fantastic stuff there this year. Also does some beautiful drawings (see below) if you need an illustrator in Scotland, e-mail Mike.
Over the course of the UK trip, I covered most of what would go into a five day core dump.
Sheffield covered the Introduction to Violence, Ambushes and Thugs. And Garry gave me a great idea that will require a team-- basically, an on-line learning center. I know who I want on the team and what the focus would be but have no idea of the technical obstacles. More info as the plan develops.
Edinburgh started with Logic of Violence. Some overlap with A&T, so a few hours could be shaved doing them together. We also did Conflict Communications Basic, parts of the DT curriculum because we had some LEOs and security professionals and two evenings of infighting. Mick asked good questions and got me thinking. You know how the stuff that is most basic to you is the hardest to teach and conceptualize? Mick wanted me to go deeper into infighting and it's the core of (words fail, I really want to write that it is the core of who I am. As a fighter, maybe. Anyway, it's important to me,) So can I put it into words? Another book just on the elements of infighting?
Swindon repeated A&T, with one evening of infighting before and a special secret day for instructors on running scenarios afterwards.
Then a long flight. Home for one day and flying off to Orlando for another series of classes this weekend. Info for that is here:
Savvy author class team teaching with Steve Perry kicks off the fourth:
Martial Arts for Writers
"You're so lucky," said my friend who ran a very large and successful martial arts studio.
"Because, you get to teach the cool stuff.
"Define 'cool stuff.'"
"You know, self-defense, knife and stick fighting, disarms, joint locks, ground fighting, cool drills, stuff like that. I have to teach punch-block-kick. I have to teach boring patterns and foreign terminology. I have to deal with pesky parents. I have to prepare students for their next belt test. I'll get a new batch of students. I'll teach them to punch and kick and break boards. I'll teach them how to move up and down the floor in unison. And they'll make it to yellow belt, maybe a little further, but most quit along the way. They try it for a while, but they get bored, lose interest, play other sports, move on to other hobbies. Few make it to the upper ranks where we introduce our own cool stuff."
"Sounds like the movie 'Groundhog Day,' where Bill Murray's character wakes up to the same day every day.
"Yep...same sh*t, different day."
So why not teach the 'cool stuff' early?"
"Well, they have to learn the basics before they can get to the cool stuff."
"Because they won't have the skills they need to do the cool stuff if they don't first learn the basics."
"But I thought you said that a lot of them quit before they get there."
"I thought you said they get bored and lose interest."
"That's right...they just don't have the same discipline we did when we were younger."
"So what would happen if you taught the cool stuff first and then worked on the precision later? Or what if you taught the basics in a cool way."
"They won't be ABLE to do that stuff. You have to walk before you can run."
"But can't they at least jog a little? Why so rigid?"
"Look, I'm proud of what I teach...the tradition, the intricacies of the style...I like focusing on the 'art' aspect of the martial arts. It's a structured approach."
"So, let me see if I understand this: You have a revolving door of undisciplined people coming into your school who apparently have short attention spans. Correct?"
"Sounds about right."
"But these students need a highly regimented, structured approach to help them become excellent martial artists, right?"
"So they may start out highly motivated, with dreams of becoming black belts or martial arts champions, but they start to become disillusioned. They end up not making martial arts a life-long passion. Sooner than later, and for lots of petty reasons, they quit before they get to the higher echelons of your program. It's a high attrition activity."
"And this 'Program,' it's immutable? It was carved on stone tablets and handed down from the heavens like the Ten Commandments?"
"I didn't say that."
"No, but according to you, there's not much flexibility or variation. The way you learned is the way you teach. Let me ask you a question."
"How long do you think people have been fighting each other?"
"Since the beginning, I guess...from time immemorial as they say."
"So Neanderthals and cave-dwelling Troglodytes were probably fighting each other?"
"Probably....yeah, most certainly."
"You could almost say that aggression and violence are part of our genetic makeup. We have emotions which give us the impetus to fight, and while we may not have the claws and fangs of other members of the animal kingdom, we have muscle, bone and sinew. We have big brains, the ability to process information quickly, and the ability to remember what we have seen and heard and learned. You with me so far?"
"I'd probably agree with all of that."
"But we also have a tendency to over-think things. We are a superstitious lot, and we also have a tendency to overemphasize the trivial. We label certain things and certain events as 'IMPORTANT,' and we latch on to them, pass them on from generation to generation.
"Remember that kid's game where we whisper a secret to the person next to us, and by the time it gets back around the message has changed? Well, we forget some of the details. The message changes. What we end up with is not what we started out with. You with me so far?"
"I think so."
"Things, places, words and phrases, and specific actions may take on symbolic value...representing something that was once considered important enough to pass on. But key details may fade, and the original meaning or the specifics may have been lost over the years. This was especially true before we had books and computers to record key details. Traditions can thus quite easily turn into stylized ritual, only vaguely resembling the original. Would you agree with that?"
"Okay, stay the me. A violent battle from the pre-historic past, for example, in which the danger was very real, the casualty rate was quite high, and the losses were hard on everyone, well, this battle would be remembered and discussed around the campfire wouldn't it?
"It's an event that a neuroscientist would refer to as salient. It stands out in our minds in a very vivid way. We would feel compelled to remember the event...remember the individual acts of courage and heroism, remember the tragic losses, remember the hardship and sacrifice. But each telling of the story, each remembrance, might take on a slightly different detail or minor change.
"Remember the movie 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?' Well, one of the characters, one of only a handful of survivors of a plane crash around the time of the apocalypse who have grown up with only scattered memories, says, 'Time counts and keeps countin', and we knows now finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy ride. But that's our trek, we gotta' travel it. And there ain't nobody knows where it's gonna' lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we 'member who we was and where we came from.'
"They all know that it's important to keep the story alive, but key facts have long since been forgotten. They may remember the gist of the story, but the details have faded. What they end up with is ritual, and symbolism, and slogans.
"Turns out we're not that much different. We replay vivid, salient events in our minds, both consciously and unconsciously. I had a friend who had seen me in a minor street altercation where I had to defend myself. In his mind the story grew, and years later, in his telling of the story, I had successfully fought off 3 guys.
"So we end up with a story that is much different from the original circumstances. Before long we have something that barely resembles the past, and we end up with something that is merely a symbolic representation of the distant event.
"A veteran of the battle may describe what he did as he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. If it worked, we reckon, it's worth knowing. If it happens again, we convince ourselves, we'll be ready. We should all learn those moves just in case, and when the enemy does this, we will do that. Before long we build a system of movements around those events, those unique circumstances. Before long the system becomes important as the original details are forgotten. Before long the system becomes more important than the original event that inspired it. Before long 'getting it right' becomes more important than 'making it work.'"
"What's all of this got to do with me?"
"It's just that you seem frustrated with what you're doing. Let me ask you a question...I noticed a Bruce Lee poster in your school. Are your students fans of Bruce Lee?"
"Sure, I guess most of them are."
"So here's where I get confused. Bruce Lee was all about individual freedom and personal expression. He eschewed what he called the 'classical mess,' and promoted a take-what-is-useful, experimental approach in which training methodologies and techniques which had merit should be used, while those which weren't practical or useful should be discarded.
"He railed against those who were rigidly bound to established, traditional systems. He famously said, 'Truth cannot be structured or confined. I hope to free my comrades from bondage to styles, patterns and doctrines.'
"So, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying, why not break free yourself? Why not step back and take a fresh look, get a new perspective, on your program. Are there things you could do to keep your students interested? Could you introduce some training methods that are action-oriented, reality-based? Couldn't you take your curriculum and apply it to a modern sensibility? Let go of the some of the stuff that doesn't work, doesn't last, doesn't keep your students' attention? Couldn't you revamp the program, loosen it up a little bit? Maybe play around with the class structure, experiment with some drills and exciting skills?"
"I really wish I could. That would be cool. But I can't. This is my program. This is what I do. Man, I really envy you....you're so lucky."
"It's like deja vu all over again."Yogi Berra
I want you to do a thought experiment. Relax, take a deep breath, and answer a few questions. First, imagine that no one is going to help you and your children are in danger of starving. What would you be willing to do?
Would you steal food?
Would you rob (use violence or the threat of violence to steal) for food or money for food?
Would you kill?
These are the first questions, the easy ones. To save your children, what would you be willing to do? What lines would you cross? I use ‘to save your children’ in the question because most people imagine their own starvation as something noble or heroic. They imagine they could ‘take it’ and make sacrifices and stick to a moral code but can’t really imagine what the changing blood sugar, fear and desperation would do to their minds. So we stick with children for this little thought experiment.Ready for the next series of questions?
Would you prostitute yourself? Would you prostitute you children to feed them? Prostitute just one of the children to feed the others? Or maybe sell one and pretend you did not know why the child was wanted?
I don’t know why people hesitate more on these questions than on the question of killing, but they do. Murder is officially more evil than prostitution, right? Maybe, in this thought experiment, murder for food is a little more abstract and easier to imagine in soft focus. Maybe.
More questions. Whatever strategy you chose to feed your children, you are an adaptable human being. Would you eventually become okay with your decision? Even self-righteous about it? You are the one killing, stealing or pimping… would you really blame yourself for that? Or find someone else to blame for driving you to it?
Would you eventually tell yourself that what you are doing is noble and right? That your victims are the bad guys? If it turned out to be successful and you moved from the edge of starvation to affluence, would you quit doing the crimes? Or would it have become a way of life? And would you teach your children to follow in your footsteps?
Play with those thoughts for a moment.We live in an unbelievably affluent society. Our modern response to the possibility of hunger, much less starvation, doesn’t involve getting a spear or laying traps, but going to a government office and filing paperwork. No one seems to see anything odd about that.It is so easy to forget, when you have never personally been hungrier than you wanted to be (fasting is a completely different experience than starving) that the possibility of children starving has been the norm for much of human history. It is still the norm in many places in the world.Yet we are surprised when people act from this world-view. We get self-righteous and indignant. That may be a justified attitude, but it is not useful.
In modern times, this threat isn’t about food. That little thought experiment we just did? That desperation that drives you to do things you know are wrong? Things that become less wrong the longer you do them until you feel fully justified and righteous? That is where addicts live and it drives a huge amount of the crime in this country.This has profound implications for avoiding and de-escalating violence stemming from this level. It is much different from the social conflict we are used to. Everything you know about protecting people’s feelings or deferring to status or showing respect is irrelevant here. The threat wants stuff. Stuff that he can sell to feed his addiction. It is not about his feelings or his past or his inner child. It is about his need.The only things that will work on the threat are the things that would work on you if your children were starving. The thought experiment will help you empathize with the threat’s state of mind and help you avoid the traps.What would you do if your children were starving? How far would you go? How far will the threat go? How would you set up your crimes?Would you prefer to burglarize an empty house? Threaten in privacy? Use overwhelming force from ambush or invade a home and catch the victim(s) off guard?The threat will do the same thing and for the same reasons. Almost every incident of conflict in your life has been social, and almost all of the social incidents had one thing in common: an audience.When someone switches to predatory violence, an audience magically transforms into witnesses. This is the primary clue: IF THERE ARE NO WITNESSES PREPARE FOR PREDATORY VIOLENCE.
It’s not a switch that most make quickly or easily. No matter how ineptly, incipient criminals have been socialized to some extent. They had a parent or parents. The attended at least some school. Their first time using or threatening to use violence, they are amateurs. They are nervous and it shows. Instead of using the weapon for either immediate violence or to take control, they treat it like an amulet, like a cross to keep away vampires. The best I can describe it is that like most inexperienced citizens they don’t look like they are using a gun so much as hiding behind one.In the first crimes, the threat is often hesitant to use force. Sometimes the victim reads that and attempts to use social skills to end the situation. When you see someone who is hesitant and fearful trying to exert power, what are the social strategies? Often to intimidate or punk him out. You see the weakness, the line where he should break and you push it: “You don’t have the guts to pull the trigger!”But this isn’t social. Social is two monkeys vying for status. An inexperienced predator is trying to teach himself to stop acting like a monkey and start acting like a leopard. What would a leopard do? Oh, yeah. Kill the stupid monkey.There is a common pattern of a new criminal hesitating until he starts to lose control and then using massive force to regain control. His first extreme violent crime.As the threat becomes more experienced, there are some changes. One is what I call ‘othering’. We can use more force on things different than ourselves. We can squash bugs, shoot deer, butcher livestock…but we fight people. The more we can convince ourselves that someone is not like us, the more force we can use, the faster we can use it and the less psychological damage is associated with it.Othering is a skill, and as a criminal becomes more experienced he becomes better at it. He can use force, even extreme force, without hesitation. The humanity of his victims gradually ceases to be an element restricting his actions.What does restrict his actions becomes a very cold risk-reward analysis. What will he get and what risks will he run?Violence, especially extreme violence, draws a lot of attention and carries potentially long sentences. The more blood, the greater chance of being caught. Experienced criminals think in these terms. Pressing close, making a citizen nervous so that the citizen offers some cash is zero risk, at most a city ordinance violation for the hard-to-prove “aggressive panhandling.”This implies three strategies for making you an unlikely victim:1. Lower the potential rewards of the risk/rewards equation. This is not as effective as you might think. There is no element of social justice to the equation, no morality of ‘robbing the rich.’ Many criminals steal from people poorer than themselves, because no matter who they steal from, the robber will have more, and that is the goal. A local contact (this is two years out of date) said that a heavy heroin habit in my city runs $400 dollars a day. Stealing items other than cash, he can rarely get more than 10% of the value… so an addict may have to steal $4000 worth of goods every day. That’s volume and under the press of withdrawals, most threats can’t afford to be picky. This is a one-way street, by the way. You can’t lower the potential rewards enough to make you completely safe, but you can raise the rewards enough to influence the criminal to take greater risks. See below.2. Raise the risk. Every self-defense instructor’s advice to walk with confidence and express self-value fits right here. The threat may feel confidant he could take anyone, but why artificially raise the risk? Attack the easy. Same as wolves and injured caribou. Staying in crowds. Attracting witnesses. Dialing 911 on your cell. Letting it be known that you are armed…and this is a tricky one, because a gun is a very valuable thing. Admitting you are carrying one MAY make someone choose another victim… or it may make him take extra precautions and use more violence faster to get your weapon.3. Shake his confidence in the equation. When a threat approaches, he expects certain behavior-- maybe a scared glancing around or nervous fumbling. Maybe pleading. A lot of victims just become passive. Someone who seems too calm makes the threat wonder if he has missed something. The possibility of a weapon is often more effective than the presence of a weapon. A nod or wave in a random direction may make the think threat he has missed allies.
If you understand the type of threat, you can adapt your tactics and better avoid the situation. If you cannot avoid the situation, you can choose tactics at the appropriate level of force and, possibly more important, articulate you decisions.
The topics come fast and deep. Kelly talks about Jesse Glover – a student of Bruce Lee. The Military, Cops, and Teachers. Our status as Sheepel (that is sheep and people folks) all wrapped up in American culture and self-defense. Not one to mince his words you will find a clarity of thought and a direct purpose to his words. Enjoy.
I’m going to explore some of the different mindsets of violence. In addition to the social classifications, there are three asocial types that I want to hit: the severely disturbed; those in great need; and those who enjoy acts of violence.These mindsets are important to understand. They are not like the way that most of us think. These mindsets are rare enough and often alien enough that most people can comfortably pretend that no such thought process exists. That’s a grave mistake. It’s a grave mistake in understanding because you cannot understand much less empathize with a threat when you deny reality.It is a grave tactical mistakes, because the techniques to avoid and de-escalate violence differs profoundly by the mindset of the threat.And it is a grave social mistake, because when we deny these mindsets, our entire society is vulnerable to manipulation.
None of these mindsets are inhuman. All can be understood.
THE BASELINEMost humans have never been in a survival situation, never been on the edge of starvation, drowning, being burned to death or eaten by a predator. Most of us have never been seriously worried that our children might starve.Fears like these direct a very logical or very visceral kind of violence.What most of us have experienced are ‘personality conflicts’ jerks and bullies and passive aggressive people. Showboats, cowboys and corporate backstabbers at work. Troubled and angry and often drunk relatives at family gatherings. These are the conflicts we are experienced in, and these are the conflicts we are prepared for. We have strategies for all of these, and the strategies work. This is our baseline.The problem is that these are all examples of social violence—conflict designed to establish or clarify a dominance hierarchy, or to enforce a group’s rules or to determine who is an insider and who is an outsider. These are qualitatively different than violence for survival.Humans fight each other. We butcher or hunt animals. One is emotional, the other efficient. One is for ego, the other for meat.When a threat is human, our default is to defend ourselves in ways that have worked in this social context. To treat an assailant in a similar way to how we deal with Uncle Bob when he gets a mean drunk on.And so we see the film of a young girl targeted by a predator who looks away and tries to look small. “If I don’t make eye contact and don’t give him a reason to be angry, he will leave me alone.” After all, that is what worked to keep her father calm. In this case, it just let the predator know that she was easy prey.
SURVIVAL MODEMost people will never experience a threat in this mindset. These are not the muggers or serial predators. True survival mode is triggered very rarely in our society. Only shut-ins are in danger of starving. People rarely get attacked by packs of dogs.It does happen though, from one of four reasons:Mental Illness: Someone with severe mental illness, notably schizophrenia, may be reacting to a world that we cannot see or hear. In that world, he or she may be in a survival situation, tormented or attacked.Drugs and Alcohol: Drugs can produce effects that mimic almost any form of mental illness or emotional state. Hallucinogens can have the threat dealing with a world that others cannot see. Stimulants (such as meth and PCP) suppress the higher brain functions.Psychotic Break: Rarely goes into true survival panic mode, but a psychotic break can create some very dangerous situations. This is not a psychologist’s term, but a cop’s term. A psychotic break occurs when a person’s stress level gets to the point that things seem like a good idea that make no sense—like killing an ex-spouse to prove that you are the better parent.Fear or Rage: Lifeguards are taught to keep distance from drowning victims. The most mild-mannered, inoffensive person will climb up on your shoulders and drown you without hesitation if it means a few more seconds of air.
As a class, we call these “EDPs” for “Emotionally Disturbed Persons”. In the field it is almost impossible to tell the source of the emotional disturbance. When someone wanders into traffic, it is hard to tell if it is a suicidal depression, or a profound autism where the subject doesn’t recognize the danger, or a schizophrenic episode where the traffic looks like something else. It could be a reaction to hallucinogenic drugs or the person may have taken enough meth or PCP that they are feeling a little invincible.You won’t diagnose the problem in the field. You will recognize that the threat is not acting normally.Like a drowning victim, most EDPs are dangerous when you try to help. If you tackle someone running into traffic or pull someone away from a chainsaw, the threat will see being tackled, the threat will see being grabbed.Cognition and logic are higher brain functions. If the threat could be talked out of running into traffic, the threat would have been together enough not to run into traffic in the first place. Most attempts to reason with severe EDPs fail because the higher brain functions are off-line…and this is where experts who talk about how to talk down extreme cases ring false-- most clinical psychologists have primarily dealt with people who were together enough to make it to the clinic.If you intervene physically, the EDP may lash out in a panic and fight. It will not be like any sparring match. It will be more like trying to hold onto a wet cat that happens to weigh 180 pounds. The EDP will fight with everything he or she has, and in some cases will fight to heart failure.
Does anything less than deadly force work with an EDP? Most times, yes. But not the social strategies mentioned above. Generally, the things that work with EDPs are the same things that work with angry or nervous dogs.First and foremost, both from a common sense and legal perspective, DO NOT get involved in calming an EDP if you have any choice. It is not safe. It is something for professionals and even they like having tasers to back things up. If you have the option to safely and responsibly leave, take it. Call for help.If you do not, see to your own safety first. If your life is in immediate jeopardy, do what you have to do. Do NOT count on pain compliance or any technique that requires the threat to surrender. The threat may not remember how to surrender.Use barriers and position to ensure your safety and buy time. Keep track of exits.NEVER count on what you ‘know’ about the individual. You know the conscious, thinking person. That personality is submerged. This one may be very different. Uncle Bob might never hurt a fly. Uncle Bob on meth might want to run over people in his pick-up.Lower the stimulation level. Limit noise, number of people talking and bright or flashing lights. Move slowly. Talk slowly. Talk with a low, soothing voice. Listen. Be patient.Patience is one of the keys- whether it is drugs or adrenaline, time will help burn it out of the threat’s system. Don’t try to deal with this quickly.Don't move fast. Never startle an EDP. Keep your voice low, slow and quiet. High-pitched voices are signs of fear and fear is contagious. Loud reads as angry and anger causes fear. Your goal is to lower the adrenaline.Listen. If the EDP is talking, I find that most of the mentally ill have a strict internal logic. If you can figure out what they are thinking, you might be able to identify and remove the source of fear.Never pretend to share the threat's delusions. With the exception of adult onset schizophrenia or inexperienced hallucinogen users, EDPs know to an extent, what is going on. He may see the Blue Men but he knows that you don't if you pretend too, he knows you are a liar and cannot be trusted.
More on talking EDPs down can be found here:"Talking Them Through" on Kindle"Talking Them Through" at Smashwords
RECOGNIZING A FAKEA reputation for being crazy is very valuable in many of the street sub-cultures. Acting crazy is a well-known way to get people to leave you alone. It is also a way to intimidate, possibly for money, or to establish deniability for a planned bad act.Being crazy isn’t fun and the real mentally ill work hard to be normal, so when someone draws attention to their own crazy acts, it’s a big red flag.One of the first things to go when mentally ill people start to ‘decompensate’ is hygiene. A too clean, well-groomed threat or one who looks like he dressed to impress is unlikely to be in a crisis.EDPs can’t control themselves. When you see someone threatening self-harm or doing something dangerous but pulling back just before it actually gets dangerous, suspect that it is a show. Less a psychological emergency than a manipulation.
GOING HANDS ONIf you have to fight an EDP it will be a new experience. They will not fight with any skill, no matter how many years of training. But they will fight with frenzied injury and no regard for all of our subconscious little rules. They are immensely dangerous. Moreso because so few people train against frenzied flurry attacks. But they will, generally, be fighting to escape. let them, if you can.Pain tends not to work. Some don't feel it, some panic harder. the essence of pain and almost any non-injurious technique is an implicit bargaining: "If you quit fighting, I will quit hurting you." The EDP will not recognize that bargain and will mot remember how to surrender. This is asocial. The EDP is fighting like panicked prey and sees you as an attacking animal, not someone trying to help.Strikes can also be unreliable. Lots of strikes don't have a physiological reason to shut someone down. Exhausting the EDP may work-- using mass or numbers to hold limbs-- but some have continued to fight to heart failure in those conditions.The two (non-lethal) things that work most reliably are the physics of leverage and leverage points and the techniques of cutting off blood to the brain (vascular strangulations, not air chokes.)
REPERCUSSIONSIf you have to use force against an EDP, it will not be a good scene. Likely it will be an extreme level of force. Between the panic reaction and the common immunity to pain, most lower levels of force are ineffective. Of the less-lethal force options, the sleeper hold is the most reliable followed, in my experience, by the Taser.There will be significant fallout, both internally and in the world.We all face the possibility of using force and most of us have thought about the ramifications of using force and come to terms with our own ethics. But on some level, if we ever use force, especially deadly force, we want it to be against a bad person. A murderer or rapist.A true EDP is not a bad person. With brain chemistry out of balance, his actions are not under his or her own control. Killing an EDP may be necessary for our own survival, it may be justified, but there is no element of justice in it…and we want, maybe need, that element of justice. We want the threat to, in some way, deserve the force.This is not a platitude or a political screed. I am telling you this in the hopes of in some small way preparing you. If you use force on an EDP, expect it to have deeper and longer-term psychological issues than using the same force on a predator.Subconsciously, this is what drives the media frenzy after force is used on an EDP.Remember here most of all, that self-defense is not about justice. It is about stopping bad things from happening.
Again, this is adapted from the upcoming Conflict Communications book.
There will be some scientific details in what follows. Feel free to ignore it. Unless you are doing research, the background science is not important. The concepts are. And you know what? I’m not a scientist, so don’t take my word on anything.Again, like Maslow, this is a model, not a theory. Many models are useful, none are TRUE. For our purposes you have three brains, which we will call the Lizard, the Monkey and the Human.
The Lizard is the oldest part of your thinking brain, the hindbrain. Your survival instincts (particularly fight/flight/freeze responses) are triggered here. This is the part of your thinking brain most closely tied to your physical coordination, to your physical body and your senses. This is you, the animal.The Lizard also has an affinity for ritual and rhythm. Habits are laid down in this part of the brain, as are the little rituals that become mannerisms. I always add a little dash of coffee grounds to the pot, no matter how carefully I measured it. A mutual friend starts every conversation with, “How’s it going?” Our black cat meows when he can see the bottom of the bowl. Habit and ritual.Rhythm is often used to get in touch with this old part of the mind, as in tribal drumming and ecstatic dance. I noticed it another way, though. When a criminal was getting adrenalized, losing his ability to reason as he got angrier and angrier, closer to exploding in violence, he would often develop odd little tics that were often rhythmic—shrugging his shoulders or bouncing on his toes.
The Monkey brain corresponds to the limbic system, the emotional brain. The Monkey is completely concerned with social behavior, with status and what other people might think. The Monkey cannot distinguish between humiliation and death.For much of our evolution, being cast out of the tribe was to be sentenced to a slow and lonely death. The Monkey knows this and fears being ostracized above all things. Soldiers could not be relied on in wartime if the fear of being laughed at as a coward didn’t override the fear of death.You will see the power of the Monkey in dangerous situations. In natural disasters or major events such as the Twin Towers destruction, people were milling around, talking to each other, seeing what the other monkeys were going to do. In Baghdad, when an explosion went off near by, some people would hit the floor. Some (who had been there a while and could judge distance and safety) pretty much ignored it. Most looked around to see what they were supposed to do.Because most of the conflict we experience comes from this level, the Monkey scripts drive a lot of current human conflict behavior.
The neo-cortex, what we call the Human brain, is the new kid on the block. It is thoughtful, usually rational (but only as good as its information). It is also slow. Gathering evidence, weighing options and possibilities takes time. It tends to find a good solution, but usually one of the older sections of the brain has a decision all set to go before the neo-cortex has fully explored the problem.
You have three different brains with three different priorities. They evolved to deal with different kinds of conflict. They work using different scripts. They also have a very clear seniority system.The Lizard’s only concern is your individual survival. It is utterly ruthless. It is also conservative and extremely resistant to anything new. This is why it is so hard, especially for people who have lived dangerous lives (such as victims of chronic child abuse) to change. The Lizard only cares about survival. No matter how hard life has been, how dangerous it is, or how clearly it seems that a bad ending is inevitable, all the Lizard knows is that you what you are doing hasn’t gotten you killed yet. Any change might.This can be especially obvious in moments of extreme fear. When a rookie officer tries the same wristlock again and again even though it is not working; when an officer repeats over and over, “Drop the weapon, drop the weapon,” when it is clear he has no choice but to shoot, the Lizard is freezing them into a loop. The Lizard assumes it is a survival loop because it hasn’t gotten you killed yet…Most people only experience the Lizard in moments of extreme terror, if at all. This means that they associate it with the Survival Stress Response, the cascade of stress hormones that flood your body under extreme threat. The stress hormones affect your vision and hearing, your memory, your coordination and your judgment. The stress hormones may make you clumsy, tunnel-visioned, functionally deaf, stupid, stubborn and incapable of remembering anything.People who have only experienced the Lizard under these conditions assume that the Lizard is clumsy and stupid. Not so. An elite athlete “in the zone” is functioning almost wholly in the Lizard brain. Watch a kid playing a video game he or she has mastered and you see the lizard brain, totally absorbed in a task.As the oldest and concerned with the very highest priority, survival, the Lizard brain has the chemical power to completely take over your brain. It can hijack you whenever it feels the need. This hijacking is usually (only?) triggered by fear of imminent death.
The Monkey is concerned with social survival and status. It literally cannot distinguish between humiliation and death. This is a key point in many very serious issues. At a low level, you can see it in action by taking a group of friends out bungee jumping. Fear of falling is one of the two fears that appeared to be hard-wired into human infants (the other is loud noises). In bungee jumping there is a small but real risk of injury. It usually takes a few minutes of cajoling to get a timid person to jump. A risk taker or adrenaline junkie will not need much encouragement but will usually hesitate just before making the leap. It takes an act of will, of some degree, to overcome one of the deepest genetic fears that humans have.Afterwards, take the same group of friends out to a karaoke bar and try to get them to sing. Some absolutely won’t. A few will, if they have performed before. For most it will take alcohol, insults, teasing all to overcome a fear of… what?What a bunch of drunk strangers will think? Not even that, because two beers later the drunk strangers won’t even remember your singing. Why is this fear, this imaginary fear of what other people might think so powerful?Make no mistake, it is powerful.In “Machete Season” Jean Hatzfeld documents a man in the Rwandan genocide who went out every morning to hunt Tutsi and hack them up—men, women and children—with machetes. The man said that the taunts and jeering and laughter if he didn’t join in were much worse, ‘like a poison.’The monkey is powerful, and it explains some very deep, very dangerous puzzles in human behavior, conflict and trauma.The physical injuries from rape often heal quickly. The psychic scars take much longer if they heal at all. Because the monkey brain’s view of how the world should work, the things that can and can’t happen, how people treat each other are shattered.That people stay in a clearly abusive relationship is a puzzle, but not for the monkey. The monkey knows that it is still a relationship. That you have a tribe and a place, no matter how painful, is less terrifying than to be alone or to be uncertain of your place.Listen to those words: painful, terrifying. The Monkey is the seat of emotions. There are deeper emotions. The Lizard understands a pure joy in the physical world that rarely makes it to the conscious mind. The lizard also understands a primal fear of extinction.The Monkey, however, lives on the social nuances of emotion.It is less afraid of dying than of being seen as a coward, of shame. The Monkey turns honest grief into self-pity. Sometimes it turns Lizard fear into rage, and that can be a profound survival strategy, but the Monkey can also produce rage in response to an imagined insult.It is not always negative. The connections with family, friends and our sense of belonging to any group triggers at the Monkey level. It allows compassion, patriotism, self-sacrifice and a desire to make a better future for others. The monkey is the one who can feel the concept of a community.Sometimes, guided and influenced by the Human brain, it is rational and altruistic. Even when it is not, the Monkey mind feels rational. This is a huge danger.Studies have shown that when people who label themselves ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ are asked to explain their political views they feel logical. They sound logical. But their neo-cortex (where logic resides) isn’t even active. The activity is in their limbic system, their emotional centers. Their Monkey brains.When you label yourself, whether by nationality or creed or political party or business affiliation or social club, you are in your Monkey brain. No matter how rational you feel, the label has the specific purpose of identifying you within a tribe and preventing you from thinking rationally.Because, if you notice a pattern here, all of these obviously silly or inefficient Monkey Strategies (staying in bad relationships, hacking up others, fear of humiliation, labeling) dowork. They just don’t work for you. They work to keep the groups together.The Lizard, the Monkey and DeathThe Lizard is only concerned with survival and outranks the Monkey, so how, as mentioned earlier, can there be soldiers? Why doesn’t the Lizard keep people from getting into the position of choosing between status and survival?Because the Lizard cannot deal with abstract concepts. The idea that a mortar might hit you has no meaning, no immediacy to the Lizard. Once the Lizard has heard the whistle and seen an explosion, the example becomes real.Then, though it might run, it also learned that the training worked. Once the lizard trusts the training, you can get a hyper-efficient soldier.
We like to think that our Human mind is who we really are. We like to think that we spend a lot of time there. Get over that.The Lizard and the Monkey both work at a level below words. You can think of it as subconscious. Words are symbols, imprecise and slow. The Human mind is the master of words and symbols. Words have great power in explaining our actions to others. And to ourselves.Research has shown, very consistently, that in many cases decisions are made subconsciously before the conscious (Human) brain has even finished evaluating the question.If someone asks, “Which of these shirts do you like best?” Your subconscious mind will have chosen one before your conscious mind really starts to compare them. When you are asked why you chose one, your conscious mind will have an answer—an answer completely invented well after the decision was made.Much of the time spent in our Human mind is spent making up reasons for what we already believe or have already decided. Sometimes we are explaining it to others. Often we are explaining it to ourselves. As long as there is no friction, as long as our explanations work well enough that our map of reality isn’t obviously whacked, our brains don’t care if our explanations are accurate.That’s right. We only care if we are lying to ourselves if it gets us in trouble later. Frankly, the Monkey and the Lizard don’t give a damn about explanations.You know this. Think of a time when someone made an incredibly stupid decision. Didn’t that person have a very reasonable sounding explanation? That’s the Human covering for the Monkey. Now think of a time when you made an incredibly bad decision…Despite its slowness, its capacity for self-delusion and the ease with which it can be hijacked, the Human brain is extremely powerful. The Human brain solves problems. That’s what it does.Using abstract reasoning (something the Lizard can’t comprehend) and juggling symbols (something the Monkey often can’t distinguish symbols from what the symbols represent—the probable basis for hypnosis and much of primitive magic) the human brain brings relatively new and unheard-of powers to solving problems:How do we get these supplies over the border? Why isn’t the car starting? What do these symptoms mean? How do I reach my goal?Only the Human mind can understand an abstract goal and work towards it. The Monkey and the Lizard, despite their strengths, are purely reactive.
What this means for martial artists and self-defense and people interested in responding to violence (and this isn't in the current edition of the manual. We'll see if it gets added:
Skilled fighting, self defense training, is a very human brained activity. Good training is logical. It works.Unfortunately, the lizard doesn't believe in training. Which means that on the edge of survival, you won't use your skills. the lizard will push the human away, "Back off, kid, adults be talkin' now. I been handlin' this since T rex roamed the earth..." Usually, the natural reactions have to fail before the hindbrain will relent and let you use the trained skills. If and when that happens, however, and when the hindbrain begins to trust the training... the hindbrain will back you a hundred percent and you will come to fight with both the skill you have trained and your efficient essence as an animal. that is levels beyond what most people have ever experienced, but it is incredible.Except, if your monkey brain is triggered. Which it often will if you are facing another human. The monkey will not necessarily recognize a potentially lethal assault situation. It will see another human being. It will likely (unless you have ben raised or trained to not see people you don't know as humans) want to respond as if this was an in-house problem. Which means the monkey will instinctively not injure (because that will weaken the tribe). The monkey will posture-- trying to look big, squaring up, flexing muscles, possibly the worse possible way to stand in a fight. And when the monkey does hit, it will hit to communicate. Most women slap, most men do a looping punch at the head. Neither of those will do serious injury, and sending a message without serious injury is the monkey's intention. Does this make sense? Not for self-defense. But if you look at it clearly everything you do instinctively in a fight are the exact things that would impress a female chimp. they want to see strength and endurance and aggression, not sneaky ruthless efficiency.So two levels of deep wiring can completely subvert years of training.
"I don't make things difficult. That's the way they get, all by themselves." (Riggs, "Lethal Weapon", 1987)
"Flow with the go." (Richard Bustillo, Chattanooga seminar)
During a break at a seminar in 1988, I asked famed Modern Arnis instructor Remy Presas what one attribute he considered the most important for fighting. "Flow," he answered without hesitation.
He used the imagery of trying to cross a creek that has become swollen by a springtime rain. The sheer power and energy of that raging water would make it hard to maneuver.
So a key ingredient in combat is physical flow--a sustained, non-hesitant barrage of energetic attacks to keep the opponent at bay. Fluid, dynamic movement that does not pause, does not stop to think.
But there is also the mental aspect of this non-hesitant energy. Call it what you will, being "In the Zone", "In the Pocket," or "In the Groove", but there is a state of mind in which nothing else seems to exist except for the task at hand. Many people also refer to this phenomenon as "Flow".
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (mee-hi chick-sent-mee-hi), the person most associated with the psychology of optimal experience, 'flow' is defined as a person's total absorption into an activity, or "being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
Flow is a difficult concept to pin down, but we've probably all experienced it at one time or another. It is generally characterized by the following:
- Deep concentration
- Complete focus
- Unforced...it just happens
- Full involvement
- Single-minded immersion
- Absorption, preoccupation, being 'lost' in the activity
- Effortless action
I don't know about you, but I have had training sessions where I've lost track of time, and the outside world ceased to exist.
Some historians say that Michelangelo may have painted the Sistine Chapel while in a "flow state." It is said that he painted for days at a time, not even taking a break for food or sleep. He would supposedly become so absorbed in his work that he wouldn't stop until he reached the point of passing out.
Bruce Lee, in The Tao of Gung Fu, talked about flow, and, like so many others, used water as a metaphor. "Running water never grows stale," he said, "so you just have to 'keep on flowing.'" In "Enter the Dragon", Lee's character says, "A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract; and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, 'I' do not hit, 'it' hits all by itself."
Echoing Lee, Formula One driver Ayrton Senna described his own unique experience with flow while driving in the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, "...Suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel."
Bruce Lee talked about the Three Stages of Cultivation:
Stage One he referred to as the 'primitive stage.' This is the beginner who has never taken a martial arts lesson. If he were to be attacked, he would react naturally, fluidly, freely, without thinking. He does not know what he is supposed to do, and thus does not stop to consider his actions before taking action. His movements are pure and unadulterated.
He called Stage Two the 'mechanical stage.' The person knows a thing or two about fighting--how to move, how to punch and kick, what techniques to use. If confronted with an attack the person in this stage may experience paralysis by analysis, and the fluid nature of his reaction would be stopped as internal calculations are made and the right technique, performed just the right way, is dredged up from memory banks.
Stage Three is the 'spontaneous stage.' With enough training, the responses become automatic, and fluidity is once again achieved. "Instead of trying to impose on his mind," Lee said, "he adjusts himself to his opponent like water pressing on an earthen wall. It flows through the slightest crack. There is nothing to try to do but try to be purposeless and formless, like water. All of his classical techniques and standard styles are minimized, if not wiped out, and nothingness prevails. He is no longer confined."
He summarized the 3 stages succinctly when he said, "Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick."
Dig this, we use flow all the time without thinking about it. "When we speak," says Gerald Edelman, in A Universe of Consciousness, "we know roughly what we want to say, however, words seem to pop up when we need them, in the right place at the right time, with the right sound and the right meaning...we do not have to search consciously for each of them or check our syntax at every step...if we had to do so, speaking would be an almost impossible task that would place an enormous burden on our conscious lives."
The_Might_Zep responded to a question about how to make guitar solos more fluid, and here was his advice: "I know it sounds simple and corny, but if you play what you want to hear and not just copying someone's style, it'll be both enjoyable to the listener and the player. Play what you're thinking of. Think: emotions. Do you want the solo to be more depressing and melodic? Or just plain crazy, fast, and awesome? The second you hold onto the guitar, you're not you anymore. You're the guitar. So play what you want."
In my own training and private classes with my clients we use Tactical Training Sequences which chain a series of movements together. Filipino Martial Arts call these flow drills, and many of these FMA drills have been adopted by other styles. Although you can become overdependent on these sequences, they are essential in teaching you to move without hesitation, from defense to offense, and from one offensive movement to another.
Don't force the techniques, let them flow spontaneously. With enough of the right type of improvisational-based training, the mind/body will know instinctively what to do.