Constant Forward Pressure

Rory Miller's Blog - Wed, 2016-08-03 15:22
There are things about fighting that are very difficult to learn without fighting. There are things about an assault that are difficult, maybe impossible, to learn without being on both ends of an assault. Martial arts training is largely about trying to preserve and pass on skills without the side-effects of using the skills. You want to learn to punch without the arthritis from old fractures in the delicate bones of your hand. To learn how to survive an attack without the accumulated concussions and microconcussions that are a natural result of knowing what "surviving an attack" even means.

When we sanitize fighting and try to make it safe we lose a lot of information. In hierarchical systems, if information is lost to one generation of instructors, the system tends to resist the information when it is rediscovered.

Some of those little bits of wisdom are so obvious it feels weird to talk or write about them. This is one.

Hitting changes stuff. Not just 'hitting a body feels different than hitting a heavy bag or punching air.' Every time you hit or are hit for real, something changes. Something in the structure of the person receiving the hit is disrupted. If you get hit hard enough in the face to twist you neck, it will change your shoulder alignment and the distribution of balance between your feet. If you take a heavy rising body blow it can break your connection with the ground.

Every incoming impact affects you, and every impact you deliver affects the threat.

In order to hit well you need power, targeting, timing, and empty space to move through.
Power is usually based on structure and a connection with the ground OR whip action and speed.
Targets must be in range and available. If you can't reach it you can't hurt it.
I'll skip timing. Timing in fighting is a complicated art form, in assault (either doing or receiving) timing is dead simple.
Empty space is something an infighter must manage.

Every solid impact affects at least one of those things. It can disrupt structure and connection with the ground and interrupt the looseness required for whip power. Changing structure changes range and the body's orientation to available targets. Attacks change your perception of time and thus alter your timing.

The essence of defense is to disrupt the other person's offense-- by denying targets or disrupting, power, targeting, timing or range. "The best defense is a good offense" is a literal truth when you are working with impact.

On the receiving end it is a double-whammy and almost impossible to understand or get skilled at without experience. Incoming attacks at power mess you up physically, as described, but also mentally. Fast hard attacks disrupt your OODA loop and tend to overwhelm people into a passive, child-like mode. The determination to keep control of your own mind and to adapt to the physical disruption-- there are exercises which can show you pieces of it (Infighting randori is the best I know, followed closely by full blown scenarios...) but the real thing can't be replicated safely.

I first heard "constant forward pressure" as a wing chun strategy. This is my understanding of it today: Every attack disrupts. Each contact does damage; disrupts the threat's targeting, timing and distancing; and sets up the next shot. (I tend to fight by touch instead of sight, so indexing and pivoting the attacking limb off the point of impact are big for me.)

Constant forward pressure lets your offense handle your defense. It sounds like an armchair strategy, but it is an obvious natural truth when you are hitting and getting hit hard.



Overlay

Rory Miller's Blog - Sun, 2016-07-17 22:17
Working on a model. A lot of things have puzzled me for the last several years, especially things that look, to me, like people fighting against their own self-interest; people blind to the disconnect between their own peaceful words and violent actions; people arguing and even rioting against their own civil rights (WTF, people?); demands to add power to already failed initiatives and institutions...

The people that see the problems I see tend to have certain things in common. And the people who don't see the disconnects also tend to have things in common. I think the disconnects fall on a common fault line, though. So let's see if I can dig this out here.

There is a natural world. In that natural world, things follow the laws of physics and the laws of biology. If you want a rock on top of a hill, energy must be expended to get it there. Most things you eat comes from the destruction of another living creature. Want a burger? A sweet, docile, brown-eyed cow must be killed, chopped up into it's constituent parts and some of the nose parts ground into piles of once-living flesh. Want a beer to grow with that? Barley must be chopped and carefully rotted.

There is an economics to the laws of biology/ecology. It's not exactly a zero-sum game, but energy must be exerted to get benefits. You must expend the energy to move to shelter. To get food. To not be killed by creatures that want you for food.

This reality underlies everything. Bellies need to be fed, in order to feed bellies, something must be destroyed and some person must initiate that destruction. Meat doesn't come from grocery stores, it comes from ranchers and slaughterhouses.

That reality is stark, and people are very uncomfortable with it. Extremely darwinian. There will be winners and losers and extinctions.

Nobody likes extinctions and they dislike people losing (in an abstract way) and hate being losers themselves, and so they set up or empower someone else to set up a system that overlays and attempts to control the natural world. You can't control the natural world, but you can influence the effects.

But by creating this second ecosystem that overlays the natural one, you create a second way to play the game. If I can't feed my family, I can invoke the rules and someone else will feed them. If I'm not a good enough businessman to prosper, I can apply for grants or get a bailout or donate to a congressman who might write rules that hamper my competitor.

Technology has out paced population. We don't live in a scarcity economy and almost no one has any direct connection to something as primal as procuring food. We have machines powerful enough that it takes a remarkably small number of people to deal with the real world-- to butcher the animals and move the heavy rocks and build the roads and...

So for most people, the artificial overlay of rules (written and unwritten; intended and unintended...) have always been more powerful than the real world. And the people who manipulate the artificial world (politicians and bankers, for instance) have always been more powerful than the ones who work in the real world (industrialists, for instance*). Thus, the artificial world feels more real, and in day-to-day life, has more impact than the real world of hunger, cold and injury.

That's background. Here's the deal.
No matter how detailed, intense, powerful or all-controlling the artificial world becomes, the natural world never goes away. And every so often, in a natural disaster or a spree shooting, the natural world intrudes. For people who see the artificial world as the real world, the answer is obvious: We need more rules. In modern society, the response to fear has become micromanagement. Which works so well in the business world, right? Sigh.

But hurricanes and spree-shooters don't follow human rules, that's what makes them what they are. They follow physics or the laws of biology. Society's rules are just magical incantations and they only work on believers.

Universally (so far, I'm sure there are exceptions) the people that see the problems I see have lived close to the edge. They have been hungry with no one there to help, they have had people try to hurt or kill them and been profoundly alone. Which means they come overwhelmingly from the poor and rural demographics. Conversely, the ones who believe you can create a written answer to a physical problem have spent their lives in a rich, privileged and artificial world.

Both the worlds exist. Both affect our future. We need to recognize them both and recognize when a problem is beyond the reach of the artificial world's tools. IME, the people who have been exposed to the real world have no problem recognizing the artificial. They may get significantly self-righteous that their world view is the real or good one (long look in mirror here... I'm back) but unless they are completely off the grid, they know damn well about the overlay. Does anyone truly believe  that hard work and reliability is the fast-track to promotion in a big organization? Or that brilliantly arguing your professor into a corner will improve your grade?

But it is possible to live entirely in the artificial world and to believe that it is the only world. That writing rules somehow, magically, controls events. And for the most part, this isn't only a safe bet but a good one. The artificial overlay is the most powerful of the two worlds right now in day-to-day life. Right up until it fails.


*When you reflexively think about "evil corporations" are you thinking about the ones who provide your laptop, phone, car and food? Or the ones who exist just to manipulate interest and debt? I'd argue that they are very different.

Take a Breath

Rory Miller's Blog - Sat, 2016-07-09 15:25
There's a lot happening in the world right now. More than you know, but probably less than you fear. Take a breath. Tension, fear and anger all make you stupid. And the resultant stupidity is a tool for someone else. Don't be a tool.

People learn through story. News outlets make money through advertising. People are tribal.
News sells stories, not data. They don't just tell you what happened, but try to tell you why, and what it means for you, and have a cast of characters and sometimes a moral... It's not a conspiracy or deceitful. People bond to stories and "just the facts" reporting would lose all of their audience to something more entertaining.

In broadcast TV, radio and newspapers, the media sells you. They work to deliver a certain number of viewers to their advertisers. To be a successful business, TV news has to keep you glued to the TV through the commercials. In order to do that they need a compelling story. Or just to make you angry and afraid. It works doubly well, because angry and afraid people are easily manipulated, and that's what advertisers want. Who does your fear and anger serve?

Story and tribe. In the modern world, tribes are abstractions based on story. The narrative trumps the truth and it must trump the truth because not standing with the tribe is unthinkable. So when a cornerstone of the narrative is shown to be false, the tribe doubles down. They alter facts to fit narrative. They invent entire incidents to keep the emotional bonds tight.

A concept I stumbled upon recently, I'd credit it if I remembered who I heard/read it from: When you are offended by a social injustice, if you want to fix it, don't bother looking at who suffers. Look at who profits.

Works for other things than social injustice. Who profits from your fear and anger?

Another concept, one of my guiding principles for civilians caught in high-casualty situations: Don't make things worse. Don't increase the chaos. It's related to the golden rule of dealing with EDPs (Emotionally Disturbed Persons) to wit, Don't do anything that increases the EDPs adrenaline.

Anger and fear are contagious. They feed off each other. The infect others. They spread. And they make things worse. I know some of you have taken your fear or your anger as parts of your identity and don't want to let it go. Let it go anyway. From that mindset not only are you part of the problem, you are serving someone else.  Someone who profits from rage and chaos.

A Hint From the IDC

Rory Miller's Blog - Fri, 2016-07-08 15:24
IDC is Instructor Development Course. It's not a standard "Master Instructor" or "Train-the-Trainer" course in that IDC is about teaching regardless of subject. Master Instructor and Train-the-Trainer courses are usually certifying people to teach a something specific. CRGI's IDC centers around self-defense instruction because that's our common language but we're definitely not teaching a system. IDC is about the "how" of instruction, not the "what." Which probably only makes sense to me.

Garry and I taught an IDC last week. We had an extra day (one day more than last time, two or three days less than we need) so we went deeper into the business stuff and curriculum development.

Here's a thought for curriculum development, a quick and dirty thought experiment.
If 1) someone you loved was 2) going into harm's way and 3) this person was completely innocent and 4) you had five minutes on the phone to tell them how to be safer, what would you say?

That's your most important thing. It tells something about how you prioritize. I think awareness is the most important skill, but five minutes isn't even enough to make sure we have a common vocabulary. I think the most important physical skill is surviving the unexpected ambush, but that takes more time and I can't do it in words. I have something for a short advice. So should you.

If you had two hours hands on, what would you teach?

That's your core. The things every students should get as soon as possible.

If you had more time, what would you add? What is your most essential four hours of information? Eight? Sixteen? Forty?

As you write this out (you will write it out, right?) be careful to note where you get redundant or start to add things that aren't strictly necessary. That's where you start transitioning from a survival skill to an art form. Still nice, but a different thing.

As you get more time you can go deeper into subjects, and with more time you can change the order. For instance, I think the most important thing for most students is to get grounded in violence dynamics, but that's not the first thing I do in a one or two day seminar. It works better if the ice is broken by physical play, they've already had the context talk which sets the need and several references to hunting versus fighting have been filtered in. Early things prime the pump for important things later.

Counter assault is the most important physical skill, but it goes faster if the students understand drop step and structure a bit, so power generation comes first.

You get the idea. As a self-defense instructor, what's your core?

This is Life Stuff

Rory Miller's Blog - Sat, 2016-07-02 19:04
Just finished teaching an Instructor Development Course with Garry Smith of the Academy of Self-Defence in Sheffield. Not planning on debriefing the class here. But there was some very big things that came up.
The course was a deep introduction to teaching: what it is, what it means, the breathtaking responsibility. In the end, teaching is the re-engineering of another human being. Think what that implies. A student will come to you and when that person moves on, he or she will move on as an entirely different person. If they do not, you have failed utterly as a teacher.
We can never give the student what they want. Humans want homeostasis and comfort and, in the end, they want to learn without changing-- which is impossible. They want, in a self-defense class, to learn about fear and danger yet never become uncomfortable. The essence of teaching is that it is transformative. True teaching is incompatible with homeostasis, with comfort zones.
During the course, what I kept picking up from student comments and questions was that everything blended. When you organize your concept of SD there will be Building Blocks, Principles and Concepts. But teaching, also, is composed of Building Block skills, based on Principles and understood by Concepts that change with experience. And so is business (we covered primarily teaching, curriculum design, critical thinking and business in the course.) In the end, consciously or not, you will live your life the same way.

Because living is learning. Unless you are working very hard to maintain your comfort zones, living is learning. Life is change. 

The Suit

Rory Miller's Blog - Sun, 2016-06-19 03:07
Had to put on the suit this morning.

Last night, decided to check in on FaceBook and just happened to see an update on a memorial page and backtracked and... yeah. The memorial that was postponed? This morning. So I put on the suit.

2016 has been a year already. We all (if you've spent time in this world) have the list. As we get older, it accelerates. The people we know get older, and the old die, eventually. The list grows.

Ron was a good man. He was the training sergeant when I was hired on. At different times he was my sergeant and my lieutenant and my Chief Deputy. He envisioned and formed the CERT team and I was on that from our first call-out. Of all the administrators, he was the one we trusted. It was a simple question, really-- given the choice between an underling dying and your career, what would you choose? Ron was one of the few that we really felt would sacrifice his career to save a life. I know that sounds simple and obvious, but spend a little time in any government agency and see how rare it is.

Lots of stories, but they belong to us. And they'll be shared between us, when the time is right. NPNBW, brothers.

The service was well done, but my radar wouldn't turn off. I noticed the significant negatives. Who didn't show. What was not said.

I hate funerals. I've been to too many, but that's a stupid thing to say since one would be too many. At the same time, memorials bring us together, people who are usually too busy to get together, to just say "hi" find the incentive when someone dies. And I appreciate reconnecting, but hate the reason.

The suit symbolizes that. I've been fortunate enough to work jobs where suits were a rarity and when a suit would normally be required, there was a Class A uniform. So the suit, to me, mean a funeral.

At least I couldn't smell any lilies.

The Farm Boy Workout

Rory Miller's Blog - Fri, 2016-06-17 16:51
One of the things I missed being ranged in ranch country was the work. No running water, we (I) packed it from the creek in five-gallon buckets. Enough for all household use and enough for all the animals that were penned and couldn't get to the creek themselves. The first two years, until dad installed a pump for the garden, that was watered by hand as well. Packing water. And splitting wood. And building and repairing fence. Putting up and repairing outbuildings. Milking cows.

Ranch kids tend to be really strong for their size. It's a side effect of manual labor as a way of life. But not all manual labor. There's a pretty nice whiskey called "Monkey Shoulder" named after the guys who shoveled coal. Lifting and tossing shovelfuls of coal for ten or fourteen hours a day, day in and day out will make you immensely strong-- in one motion. And kind bind up your body for other motions. Not even talking about repetitive use injuries.

Ranchwork, you might spend a week digging postholes in rocky terrain. Shoveling is good exercise, but using a tamping bar ( six foot long, inch and a half thick steel bar posted or wedged on one end, flat on the other) is a nice core workout. The next week pulling barbed wire. Summer bucking bails of hay and moving irrigation pipe. Splitting wood all year, but mostly in autumn. Packing water and milking the cows and goats every day.

The work is unpredictable. It was never three sets of ten reps. You bucked as many bales of hay as you had. Sometimes you could choose the pace, but if you saw dark clouds all of the hay had to be in before the rain got to it. You milked until the cows were out of milk. Total muscle failure or cramps in your hands? Tough. Stretch it out and keep going. We had a hard milking cow and at first my hands were going to muscle failure two to four times a session. Twice a day. Every day.

There were no rest days. My friends who work out scientifically insist on the importance of rest days, but cows make milk every day. I think the body adapts to the conditions. Hmmm. Hitting one of the science versus experience paradoxes.

And little of this was working with ergonomically designed tools. Barbed wire is designed to keep cattle in, not to be carried or tensioned by human hands. You have to hold big buckets away from your body to keep your legs from brushing them and spilling it. And, nature of water and gravity, you always cry the empty buckets downhill and the full buckets uphill. Rat bastards. T-posts are ridged and nobby and carrying bundles of them digs into you.

One other thing that distinguishes ranch work. You worked hard at being efficient. Some days you were going to work all day and nothing was going to ease up until dark. So you used your whole body whenever you could instead of isolating. You rested or even just rested a part (like hammering staples with your left for awhile to rest your right arm) whenever you could.

Feeling nostalgic. Our little herd of goats, which is planned to be four permanent with 2-4 kids a year for meat is now at nine and they've denuded the fenced parts of the property. So K and I have spent most of the last two weeks (lots of breaks for other obligations) building fence to give the goats access to another huge stand of blackberries. Days of hacking paths through blackberries with machetes, cleaning the paths up with clippers, raking. Digging post holes and pouring concrete to set them. Pounding t-posts. Manhandling rolls of hopefully goat-proof field fence. Tensioning wire and pounding staples. Last couple of weeks I've been working like I was a kid again. And loving it. But feeling it, too. All the joints make noises of protest in the morning. It's been a good couple of weeks.

Three things that will revolutionise your karate

John Titchen's Blog - Mon, 2015-11-30 15:57

1. Treat each demonstration by an instructor as if it is the first time you have ever seen it.

We look, but we fail to see, We listen, but we fail to hear. We observe, but we fail to understand. We’ve all done this and in many respects the longer we’ve been training the easier it is to fall into the trap of not paying attention to a demonstration or teaching point. It’s easy to look at something and say “Oh, I know this” and not give it your full attention, or not look closer to pay attention to the finer details which may be left unsaid.

One of the most difficult challenges I faced when writing my most recent series of application books, the Pinan Flow System, was choosing how to describe and illustrate the actions of the application drills. Next to each picture I had space to write about thirty words. Thirty words and a picture to sum up a little element of an application drill when I could quite easily spend at least a good twenty minutes talking through all the different nuances and underlying principles of that particular element of the drill.

In similar vein when a drill is taught it is usually layered, with different elements being emphasised for the different audiences, and a normal lesson time explanation cannot begin to cover the depth of understanding needed for good practice.

The simple step of assuming you don’t know anything about the demonstration that is taking place in front of you and trying to view it with fresh eyes to always seek extra details will make a huge difference to your karate.

2. Question everything.

I don’t mean sticking up your hand in the middle of the class all the time and asking your instructor for more information. Your instructor is teaching on a tight schedule, they are giving you as much information as they feel you need to know and have to balance the training needs of all the other students. If you need to ask your instructor a question, often it is best to wait until the end of the class; it’s not good manners to interrupt everyone else’s education and training.

If you are given a rationale for a drill or exercise, apply a solid BS filter to it. This will mean that you have to put in time to get the background knowledge to understand whether it is BS or not. The nature of your filter will depend not only upon your knowledge level (and the quality of your source information), but the purpose of your filter; are you looking for optimum training for strength, balance, flexibility, aerobic fitness, competition success (in kumite or kata) or self defence?

A lot of people peddle information that may have passed a BS filter back when they were first being taught, but time and research have since shown to be wrong. They may not be aware what they are teaching is inaccurate or flawed. Other people peddle false information because they’ve never done any real research on the topic and are relying on their imagination, their own very limited experience (which they may not realise is limited simply by being personal) or movies.

Do your own research. How does this work? Why does this work? When should this work? Where does it come from? How can I improve this? What do I need to change to improve?

 

3. Train at home, no matter how little time or space you have.

As an instructor it can be frustrating when you run several classes a week but students only make it to one. What we often fail to realise is how lucky we are to get that student at just that one class. Often on chatting to students I find that they may be out another one or two nights a week pursuing other physical hobbies (such as running, or tennis, or swimming), looking after the children at home on another night while their partner goes out to an activity, acting as a taxi service to children on other nights for their activities, and if they are lucky actually getting to spend one or two evenings a week at home with their partner. All this on top of working throughout the day earning money!

The reality of modern life is that it isn’t easy for many students to come to class more than once a week. The reality of karate is that you need to train regularly to see improvement. The two are not mutually exclusive.

You do not have to train in long sessions to have beneficial karate training.

Every good repetition of a movement counts. That means you can train for 30 seconds standing on one leg or rotating your hips while waiting for the kettle to boil, or a partner to come down the stairs before you go out rather than pacing in front of the TV. You can do a lot in a five minute session, and it is easy to find a five minute or ten minute moment in the day, and probably better for you than sitting down. Anyone can find time for personal training if they want to find time for personal training.

You do not have to break a sweat or change clothing to have beneficial karate training.

You can’t train because you don’t have time to change or shower? That shouldn’t be an issue. You don’t need to break a sweat for good training. Training comes in many forms, and as I’ve written here, often the best form of training is slow movement focusing on precision, good biomechanics and balance. You can sweat when you go to your karate class, or engage in any other form of exercise you practice.

You do not have to have lots of space to have beneficial karate training.

You can achieve a lot standing on the spot. There are lots of different upper body, hip movements and weight transference exercises you can do on the spot. It’s great to have a fair bit of space, but you can easily improve your karate just by standing on the spot.

You do not have to have a training partner to have beneficial karate training.

Paired and multiple person work is obviously a big part of karate, but you do not need company to improve your kihon or kata. If you have a kick bag, speed ball traditional strength tools or a makiwara at home you can work on those. Playing tug of war with reasonably sized dog is a great way to improve your hikite, and you may learn a lot about good biomechanics by observing how your ‘training partner’ utilises its whole body.

Try these three things for just one month and see how your karate improves!


Final Pinan Flow System book released!

John Titchen's Blog - Tue, 2015-11-17 08:14

Foreword by Iain Abernethy.

‘So here we are with the final volume of this series of books from John Titchen! You can now see John’s full interpretation of the Pinan series! How cool is that!

Gichin Funakoshi – who is frequently referred to as “The Father of Modern Karate” – wrote the following in Karate-Do Kyohan about these kata,

“Having mastered these five forms, one can be confident that he is able to defend himself competently in most situations”.

The Pinan / Heian series were therefore always intended to be a holistic self-protection system; and I think John’s books have shown a great way in which this traditional view can be realised!

While the past masters passed on the kata and a great deal of information about how they should be viewed and understood, they did not pass on a complete picture of the applications of the kata. We traditional pragmatists therefore have to do a little analysis (“bunkai” literally translating as “analysis”) in order to understand what the kata have to teach us. This invariably leads to differing “bunkai theories”.

When science sets out to assert a theory, that theory needs to be able to explain all the existing data and, crucially, it needs to be able to make accurate predictions. For example, the theory of gravity explains everything we see on an everyday scale, and it makes accurate predictions about how future events will occur. We can dismiss gravity as “just a theory” but if you step off a high building you are going to fall and accelerate at a rate of 9.81m/s until the resistance of the atmosphere has you reach terminal velocity; or you hit the floor (whichever happens first).

Now, does this mean we know for a fact and with 100% certainty how gravity works? The answer is no, we don’t. But the theories we have explain all the data and make solid predictions. We can put satellites around distant planets with these theories! I would say a similar process needs to be applied to kata i.e. any application needs to explain all the data and make predictions (i.e. work when tested).

Any bunkai theory needs to address the following three points:

  1. The bunkai must adequately address all parts of the kata (i.e. explain why the kata is as it is).
  2. The bunkai must be in accordance with the historical information we have.
  3. The bunkai must be functional in the context of civilian self-protection.

If a given set of bunkai can do that, then it is valid. In science there are sometimes competing theories, but all are valid if they can explain the data and they work.

John’s take on the Pinan / Heian kata is a very logical and well-structured bunkai theory. It is not a collection of “tricks” which happen to look like the motions of the kata, but a valid bunkai theory based on, and permeated by, sound underlying combative principles. It’s not the same as my theory, but I acknowledge its utility and the fact it meets all of my personal criteria for validity. It is very good stuff!

Now that the series is complete, you can take the information presented within and run with it “as is”, or use the information John has given you to help inform your own take on the kata series. We can then move past the “analysis stage” to use the kata in the way Funakoshi said they were originally intended: as a holistic self-protection system. This is what John has presented.

These books have made a great contribution to the collective knowledge base of the practical karate community. Well done to John for writing them! Well done you for reading them!’

Iain Abernethy

Available across the globe the fourth and final volume of the Pinan Flow System is now available as both a paperback and ebook! Use the UK links below or visit your ‘local’ amazon provider or order it at your local book store!

I can now share with you all my ‘starting points’ for training the whole Pinan / Heian set of kata. This is not an end, this is just the beginning!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/151922947X http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0180YC2IU


De-escalation Tactics – Part Two

John Titchen's Blog - Fri, 2015-09-04 08:52

This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.

Part One – Underpinning Principles

Part Two – Verbal Approaches

Part Three – Body Language

Part Four – Personal Psychology

PART TWO – VERBAL APPROACHES

This is such a huge topic that it seems trite to try and narrow it down to a simple set of guidelines that will help people. Some people don’t need (much) advice or training. They already have the ‘gift of the gab’ and can smoothly talk their way out of trouble under pressure or indeed talk another person out of trouble.

Unfortunately if you are not naturally talented then the best way to improve is practice. Real practice comes with risk and potential cost and in any case unless your job requires it your primary aim should be to avoid putting yourself in situations where de-escalation skills are required. Despite that, the underlying principles of good de-escalation are those of good communication, and those are skills that we can all work on all the time.

What you say will depend on the circumstances. I can’t tell you exactly what to say. What I can do is share a teaching mnemonic that I use to outline underlying approaches. This mnemonic is deliberately simple, with each headline word conveying an overall message and each heading letter summarising a number of different skill sets.

READ to LEAD to DEAL

We want to read a situation accurately so that we can lead it to a successful or safe resolution by achieving a deal that both parties can accept.

RECOGNISE if a verbal strategy is viable or appropriate under the circumstances.

EXPECT a physical response at all times and maintain alertness and a safe posture.

ADAPT your tone, volume and phrasing to that of the other person and if possible use to build a connection for good communication.

DECIDE on and constantly re-evaluate what you think is the best course of action.

to

LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.

ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.

DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.

to

DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.

EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.

ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.

LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

LEAD to DEAL is not simply a catchy mnemonic. The fact that the meanings are the same but the order has changed is a reminder that communication is a constantly changing fluid process.


De-escalation Tactics – Part One

John Titchen's Blog - Tue, 2015-09-01 15:54

This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.

Part One – Underpinning Principles

Part Two – Verbal Approaches

Part Three – Body Language

Part Four – Personal Psychology

PART ONE – UNDERPINNING PRINCIPLES

All aggressive and violent behaviours have underlying causes, which could be summarized under the headings of chemical factors and psychological factors. These are interrelated but for the sake of brevity are listed separately. Understanding and influencing these (through communication) is the best way to resolve conflict.

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS

Motivating factors

These may be far more varied than the examples listed below, but can generally be categorized as immediate or primary causes and underlying or secondary causes.

Immediate causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:

Physical presence or (over-long) eye contact interpreted as a challenge, overly alpha or beta male body language, a push or stumble into a person, the spilling of food or drink, a vehicle accident, peer pressure, denial of a perceived need.

Secondary causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:

Family or work stress, suppressed anger (generally linked to the former but inhibited by potential consequence), racism or social/political beliefs, past experiences, peer pressure, the role and acceptability of violence and aggression in both upbringing and normal social environment, fatigue, past success in achieving aims through aggressive or violent behaviours.

Inhibiting factors

These could be categorized as physical and social factors.

Physical factors:

The relative sizes of parties involved, perceived strength and ability of the other party, the ‘known quantity’ of the other party, body language, perceived alertness, company (of either party), immediate consequences, likelihood of injury.

Social factors:

Peer reaction – acceptance or alienation, legal and family or work repercussions, the social acceptability of aggression and violence within the individual’s social group.

Through positioning, body language, listening and using appropriate tone and speech the underlying aim should be to attempt to reduce the individual’s motivation to continue to use aggression and possibly attempt violence, while strengthening their inhibition against such approaches.

CHEMICAL FACTORS

Drugs

Alcohol or other substances weaken inhibition and can reduce awareness and comprehension. This will affect the ability of another person to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.

Underlying medical conditions

Due to a pre-existing health condition the other person may not necessarily be on the same ‘operating system’ as everyone else and may not respond in the same way.

Adrenaline

Aural and visual exclusion along with other side effects of adrenaline may hinder communication and attempts to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.

It is unlikely that there is much that you can do once an incident has already begun that will mitigate underlying chemical factors. If spotted early enough then the effect of drugs such as alcohol can be reduced by slowing absorption into the blood stream by providing food and withdrawing further alcohol (if safe to do so), but these are factors that are largely outside your control.

It is important to be aware of the role of chemical factors as ‘tipping points’ in an individual’s behaviour patterns. Whether they are part of the primary or secondary cause of the problem they may lower the probability of a successful non-violent de-escalation.


Not seeing the wood for the trees

John Titchen's Blog - Mon, 2015-08-17 18:01

The techniques of karate kata have many possible interpretations. What each individual sees in the kata will vary according to their own experience and how skilled they are at identifying potential applications.

Not every application taught need be practical.

As a case in point in my Shotokan classes I teach a wrist grab defence using kata movements that isn’t the simplest or most effective method of escape, but is a very effective drill for teaching appropriate positioning, optimum biomechanics and principles of controlling and unbalancing. While doing so I always stress that it is drill about biomechanics and usually show the faster escape. In similar vein for my Heian / Pinan Sandan drills in both the older Heian Flow System and the more recent Pinan Flow System I included a spinning back elbow and back fist. While this has been successfully used in the UFC,  it is not the most practical of techniques, but its inclusion was to a large extent to illustrate that point by making it an opening for students to unpredictably encounter a number of different positions and attacks which would lead to spontaneously training other drills.

When an application is specifically designed for practical use I notice that some people often fail to see the wood for the trees.

It is easy to over-focus on mimicking the techniques or sequences of the form but forget the overall context. If you need to strike, control or escape from another person then they will also have an agenda.

This means that they are unlikely to be holding you limply, are likely to be prepared to hit you, or may continuously be trying to hit you or get to a position where they can hit you unless you take steps to prevent that. Always protect your head and as much of your body as you can.

Unanticipated aggressive and violent confrontations tend to cause a significant adrenaline release unless you are very familiar with them and a non consensual or unpredictable event will cause different reactions to a predictable or fully consensual one. In such situations even very well trained people have difficulty utilizing fine motor skills or targeting accurately and this should be reflected in applications (for example see my kicking in self defence video). The same hormonal cascade (along with other substances) may render pain compliant / dependent techniques ineffective.

The context of the drill should be realistic if the drill is supposed to be for self defence. Appropriate habitual acts of violence (HAOV) rather than style or rule format specific attacks, and not over-skilling or under-skilling attackers / training partners. In similar vein you need to be clear whether what you are doing is legal for the envisioned circumstances  if you are training it for practical purposes rather than historical curiosity.

Hitting or striking a resisting person isn’t as easy as working with a compliant training partner. As a general rule at close quarters (where most violent incidents occur and remain) you will need to strike to control and control to strike.

When people get hit, they move, even when you are holding them. Combinations should take this into account. This quickly becomes apparent when you are making contact or receiving contact in training.

The potential of practical karate kata application is incredibly vast, but when interpreting kata for such purposes the ‘trees’ of the individual skill sets should always be seen within the context of the wood that represents the nature of actual violent confrontations.


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