Sunday, October 30, 2005

Half Mast

The flags were at half mast today. I usually don't notice, they're on a different end of the building. It's been a weird year for flags and flag protocol. The political jurisdiction that I work for is both extremely political and extremely ignorant of proper protocols, so in the last year the flag has been at half mast for some very odd things.

Today it was at half mast for Rosa Parks. A little late, maybe, but it makes good sense to me. She was an important figure in our nation, history and ideals.

We all know, every thinking, feeling one of us knows, that it's wrong to treat little old ladies shabbily. Some people felt and maybe still feel that skin color can erase this simple moral fact. It can't. Treat old folks nicely. That's an order.

Mrs. Parks made us realize that some people weren't doing this simple right thing if they could use race as an excuse. It made us look at other places where the right things weren't being done and race was an excuse.

Have you ever read "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? Uncle Tom gets a bad rap in modern black culture, but it is undeserved. Between the 19th century writing style and the religious platitudes it was a hard book for me to read but it was powerful. Stowe set up Uncle Tom as an impossibly good man- kind, generous, protective, loving and confident that he was in the hands of a loving god. The she stripped away his family and his life, and brutally murdered him at the hands of another and much lesser man.

It is a ruthless piece of tear jerking literature aimed at and successful at provoking a reaction. She pointed out that the simple moral truth, that killing a man is bad, that killing a very, very good and kind man is reprehensible and deserves justice did not apply in that world and at that time- provided the man was of a certain color and the murderer had a piece of paper describing the dead man as property.

It was an obvious moral truth brought out into the light. Something had to be done and in the bloodiest war in American history 600,000 died and the nation was brought to the edge of destruction to make it right.

Rosa deserves her flag.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All is Well

The first words I heard this morning were, "I love the feel of skin on skin." That's a sure sign of a good day.

Worked out with Mac early this morning. He's working on my mind, pushing me towards a purer intention. I respect him hugely and find myself making the beginners mistake again and again, trying to guess what the 'right' response is. A real combat is easier because I deal with the action and it never even occurs to me what the threat thinks of me. I care what Mac thinks.

Drew was back in class today, just returned from Katrina relief duty, picking up the reins of work and school and relationships and thinking about the future and the recent past. "What's normal?" was the big question today. We worked out for an hour and went to Hooters. Terrible food. Good conversation.

The rest of the free time today was spent on the book. Good times with good people. All is right with my little world.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Her eyes were brilliant blue when I first met her and then green, grey-green and once vivid scarlet. It was a month before I realized that her eyes were the color of polished steel and truly reflected the colors around her: Blue sky, blue eyes. Grassy meadow, green eyes. Holding hands wading in the ocean, stormy grey and green.

Her hair that first year was mahogany in the winter, honey blond after only a few days of summer sun.

Her shoulders were strong and smooth, like a swimmer. Legs tanned and powerful. Trim body.

She has full lips positioned between a slavic nose and a tiny chin. In the right light or in the right mood she can look like a chipmonk, a muppet or the very soul of classical beauty.

With all that beauty, the first thing I noticed was her calm grace. Everything around her appears stately and serene. People feel happy and safe just to be around her, and they share more and grow more in her light.

That was nineteen years ago. This morning, once again, I marveled at her beauty. After almost two decades it is still a thrill to touch her. Her scent means 'home' to me.

We are older now. There has been a lot of time, a lot of pain and triumph. A lot of blood and tears and laughter. She has held me when I only wanted to sit in the darkness and rock and hum; she has listened when I was trying to get things out of my head and into words that were based on experiences no one should have. She has been at my side at funerals and she has made love to me while blood dripped from wounds in my chest and arm.

We are older. Her hair is a beautiful silver, though she's not yet forty. I'm getting thin on top. We're both a little fatter, a little slower and much, much stronger and deeper. Like our love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Grasping at Illusions

Saw something over the weekend that I've seen many, many times before.

There was a martial arts instructor of great skill in his specialty- under the right circumstances, he could dodge and send people sailing with very little effort. It bothered me, because the operative concept was 'under the right circumstances'. If someone rushed him from at least two long paces away and flinched past their own point of balance, his techniques would work. Otherwise, not so well. They didn't work, generally, on the other instructors there and he had brought his own student so that he could demonstrate successfully.

I don't think this was conscious. I met the instructor and talked. I genuinely liked and respected him. I believe that in his own mind, his techniques did work on the other instructors or, if they didn't, he attributed it to our vast skill. I don't think for a second that he realized that he had taught his student to flinch in a certain way so that the techniques would work.

The two long paces bothered me more, because he espoused that attacks happen exclusively at that range, and they don't. He set me at that distance and asked how I would attack. I smiled, walked up, put an arm around his shoulders and fired a knee into his thigh. He laughed and said, "I'd never let you get that close." He just had. Without a beat, he turned back to the lesson.

He had superb skill and he (or his instructors) had rewritten the map of the world so that the techniques would work. Since the techniques required two paces, attacks must come at two paces, right? Otherwise the techniques would have been designed differently. Right?

Imagine studying something for a decade or more that you will never actually use. You have worked to perfect it, but without a touchstone to reality, how do you know what perfection looks like?

He told me about a serious assault he had been subjected to- it was bloody and messy, an ambush at close quarters with lumber and boots. It didn't happen at two paces, or from the front. The two he could see were closer than he believes he would ever let anyone get and he didn't see the third.

I assume that sometime after this incident he found his martial art, fell in love with it and found great comfort and a feeling of safety in its practice. Does he ever think about that attack within the context of what he teaches? How do illusions become so powerful that they seem more real and affect beliefs more than an event as horrific as the one he experienced?

An Adult Moment

Yesterday was tactical team training. We crammed a lot into one day- entries, vehicle assaults and recertification on a variety of less-lethal weapon platforms. How's that for jargon? Less-lethal describes new technologies in law enforcement designed to incapacitate a threat with less chance of doing serious injury. Not no chance, just less chance. These are things like bean-bag rounds for shotguns. The 'platform' is what the LL round is fired from.

Anyway, due to bitter experience, I'm largely skeptical about the effect of LL rounds in real life. Rubber bullets have blown holes in people and bean bags have bounced off with no effect in my direct experience... I've heard of other failures often.

I'm not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of LL technology. The citizens want something as likely to put down a crazy, violent, drugged threat as a handgun without the messy death and vicarious guilt part. Businesses are trying to fill this gap.

Back to the subject- I trust things based on my experience. We have a round that we haven't used yet- essentialy a shell for a 40mm grenade launcher filled with .60 cal rubber balls. I've been curious about its effects largely because I've been less than a yard away from a flash/bang type grenade that also threw rubber balls and never felt them.

So, during a break in training I found myself staring down the barrel of a 40 mm from 15 yards. I had a helmet with face shield on my head and another helmet held over my groin (I'm not completely stupid).

"Ready?" the Deputy called as she sighted in.
"Ready." I said and lowered my head so the face shield would cover my throat but I could still see.

Then, for just a second, I wondered, "Why am I doing this?" It was an adult moment. Very grown up, very mature. They happen sometimes. I had one just before my fourth jump out of an airplane. Just before I got married.

I always got over it. Got married, jumped without hesitation... and saw the flash as the 40mm fired.

It stung a little bit. There are two welts on my arms and I felt a third just barely when it hit my body armor. Oh well.

The adult moment is very much about fear, sure, but also something else. People don't change or grow by doing the mature, sensible thing and staying in their comfort zones. Kids are growing all the time. I will be too, learning and experimenting and pushing through fear and pain to the big world outside the zone. There's way more world outside my comfort zone than in it, and the world is full of cool stuff.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Most of the writing lately has been about combatives and insight. Time to let that go for awhile, let the dust settle.

Everything is put aside for half a day tomorrow to spend with my family. I last saw the kids Tuesday afternoon. I saw K last night when I got home, but she was asleep; saw her again, blurrily this morning when she said goodbye and I was mostly asleep.

Burned two personal days to get what should have been four days off, but half of Saturday will be spent driving to Seattle, Sunday will be teaching a seminar. Monday should be working out with the Emerald City Judo club followed by the long drive home and Tuesday will be spent training with the tactical team on less-lethal weapons technology, recertifying in five or six systems. Monday I should stay in Seattle, but I'll drive home Sunday night so that I can spend one day with the family and working around the house.

Four days off, a day and a half spent with those I love best.

Sounds like whining, but it isn't. I will enjoy every second of that time and only regret that I can't do more things, do two or six or a hundred things at once.

No time to type more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Big Three

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know how much time I spend on training and planning training and figuring out what training is. I work and largely live in a violent environment, so the focus is and always has been on dealing with violence. Three different threads came together today, the big three. It is still fresh in my mind and it will take awhile before I am sure how powerful this is, but it's big.

AWARENESS, as a training system comes from Mac. At the most basic level it is awareness of what your body can do, awareness of what the threat is, what the threat is doing and what you can do to the threat and awareness of the context and environment. In this mode you learn technique not so that you can repeat them, but so that you recognize their application, precursors and opportunities to apply them. This broad view applies not only to technique but to the next levels also- tactics, strategy and deeper beliefs and goals.

INITIATIVE as a system comes from Jeff, a deputy US Marshall. You do what needs to be done without hesitation. It doesn't matter if it is not what you planned or things aren't going well. In each instant, something needs to be done and you do it. At the technique level, this is acting decisively and without hesitation or telegraph regardless of the technique used. At the tactical level it is explosive entry. At the strategic level it is "shock & awe". At the meta level it is deciding what is worth fighting, dying or killing for long before the subject comes up and acting decisively when the line is crossed.

The third leg of this tripod is PERMISSION. I've written about it before. You must let yourself act. There is an old article, I believe from the Utne reader about "what happens when violence calls and politeness answers'" in which the author describes her rape and at each stage that she could have acted did not because it 'would be rude'. She wanted to slam her door in the stranger's face, but that would be rude... and he pushed past her into the apartment. Permission is powerful and huge, especially in combination with the other two systems. I'm still working on how pervasive a power, a crutch and a blindfold it can be. Probably will be for life.

Initiative and awareness in combination allow the predator dynamic. They allow the explosive counter-attack that can save a victim from a hopeless situation. Together, they allow for devastating and explosive applications of skill that push the very edge of what is possible.

Permission and awareness go beyond that. I've already written about the agreements and subconscious human dynamics that affect violent behavior. The awareness of which are artificial and permission to break them combine to access a nearly superhuman ability. It is not that you can suddenly do what humans can't, it's that you can do what humans choose to believe they can't do. Serious, skilled combative martial artists have said that small joint locks can't be used in a real fight, but I've done it, even one-handed on threats who outweighed me by a bunch. You will be told that if you go up unarmed against a threat with a knife, you will be cut, yet I stand at five without a scratch. More importantly is context- the rule is that you cannot take someone down who is in excited delerium without a mass of officers or good weapons... but not only have I done it a couple of times I've talked even more down- I was aware that the context (excited delerium produces a frenzied rage and inability to listen or reason), close quarters etc dictated a certain kind of response ONLY if I agreed. I gave myself permission NOT to agree and turned fights into talks. CAVEAT- NOT every time. Nothing is 100%.

Permission and initiative combine to produce a force of nature. This is inhuman and hard to describe. You do what needs to be done without regard for whether it is possible, because 9/10ths of your "impossibilities" are imaginary. Strange that a 110 pound girl believes that she can't hurt a 200 pound man, but an eight-pound cat (especially if you dump a bucket of water on it) can and it will do so without hesitation. A small woman can punch hard enough to break ribs and it is far less a matter of 'know-how' than it is of deciding to injure and then letting herself do it. This, really, is what has allowed me to go up against PCP freaks- in the end, the critical difference between me and them is that they have completely lost their allegiance to regular human suppositions about what is and isn't true, is and isn't possible. They lose theirs through chemicals and sometimes I can give mine up and even the playing field.

None of this is new, in a way. I've done each piece of this at times- I've just never seen it before. Never looked at the negative space of my actions. I very rarely talk about the "twilight zone" of violence, the incredibly weird things that happen, some seemingly impossible. One of those stories is about the time I saw a threat start to punch at my partner. Everything went in slow motion. I took two long steps, shoved my partner out of the way and caught the fist in mid-air. By conventional wisdom, this was impossible. Action beats reaction, and I didn't start to move until after the threat had started the punch. In addition, you can't take two long steps and push someone out of the way in the time it takes someone to throw a short left hook. But that one time I did. That experience has always been in the twilight zone- how the hell did that happen? How strange is that. Looking at it from this perspective, it was just permission and initiative and the question becomes "Why don't I do that all the time?"

I do know the answer to that question, BTW.

Even more, assuming this is right and as important as I feel it is right now... can it be taught and transmitted? I can give you permission to act and show you how a lock or a pin is an agreement and that works pretty well, but how well does it work when I tell you that you don't need to be a victim? That you can change your world. That you can do the impossible every day.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Breathing is like walking- everyone does it and very few people do it well. It's also one of those subjects where people focus on the minutea to the exclusion of the purpose. The purpose is to get oxygen into your system and carbon dioxide out... and often the expulsion of carbon dioxide is the most important.

It's good to have air in your lungs and let it out when taking a hit to the body.

Some people contend that breathing is the only thing that is both autonomic and voluntary, the only automatic thing that we can consciously control. That's partially true, but it's also been shown that you can control most of the others- heart beat, skin temperature, etc. if you can accurately and easily monitor them. It just takes practice.

Concentrating on breathing out in short, sharp gasps isn't just for lamaze- you can use it to stave off other automatic reactions, too.

Sound travels in air, and breathing requires air. Breath and sound are commingled on many levels. Kiai isn't always audible and people make a big deal about the "spirit shout" but ki means breath just as much as it does 'spirit' and in both senses is cognate with prana and pneuma. Breathing people still have their spirit inside them.

Long, slow breaths in through the mouth, out through the nose help lower the heart rate and ease pain.

The connection of breath and spirit ties breathing to meditation. In through the nose for so many seconds, hold without strain for so many seconds, exhale for so many seconds, hold with empty lungs for so many seconds. As thoughts intrude you acknowledge them and let them go until the world is a cycle of inhale, hold, exhale and hold. Then you get beyond even that.

A short, sharp breath with a sharp, short consonant-rich bark is very useful for triggering explosive speed.

Old style hypnotists would survey their audiences and then change the pattern of their own breathing. After a few minutes they would note which of the potential subjects had subconsciously mimiced the new breathing pattern. These would be the test subjects.

If you are in the middle of a fight and you can smell, you're breathing right and you are triggering your own predator mindset.

Friday, October 14, 2005


A little fuzzy right now with a low-grade headache. Our agency is nervous about the concept but finally we got permission to teach "vascular restraints" to the officers. We call them vascular restraints because the word 'strangling' is too scary. Under either name, I've been on the receiving end of about forty today. I'd really like to blame the strangles for my present headache and odd mood, but it has more to do with running on less than five hours of sleep (again!).

One of my team members came back to work today. Her knee was injured pretty severely in training and her doctor wants her to stay at home, but she's too bored and too stubborn for that. She's the only female member of the tactical team and she's well aware of it. She trained very hard to make the team and did so, only to find herself the smallest member, physically weakest, not the best shot... but she's stubborn. I'd rather have stubborn backing me up than strong. But I worry that she'll take her identity the only female team member and push past where she should go. That she'll go on an Op and jump in before she's ready. She's young, more afraid that some one will say "she couldn't hack it" than that she'll be walking with a cane before she reaches forty.

She's getting a lot from the team and giving a lot to it. She works hard and brings an energy to the team that's different when it's just a boys club. She makes everyone slightly uncomfortable, which delights my heart as a team leader- I don't want them comfortable.

Even more, I don't want there to be a career-ending injury.

Her knee is weak and I know she'll work her ass off to get it strong. She's fought so long not to be the weakest on the team and now there's another obstacle. On top of that, she needs to make the decision of what to do based on what's best for her- the training, cameraderie and cachet of being a member of an elite team versus the possibility of more damage. I can't help her with that.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


One of my psych inmates is refusing his meds. His behavior is still fine, though he's clearly on edge, walking in tighter and tighter circles and showing the gross motor activity (GMA) of near panic or near rage.

He feels he sees the world so much clearer without medication. The 'invisible men' who run everything, route all money through their hands and manipulate the children with television so that they grow up to be unable to think in certain ways or challenge or question... this is all much clearer to him without the fog of medication.

I'm worried that if he sees it clearly enough, he will feel the need to do something and we will once more have to respond to him arguing or fighting with a person that only he can see. That's his cycle both inside and outside of custody.

I was raised on a self-sufficient survivalist ranch in the 70's. My parents were sure that soon, very soon, either a nuclear war or a massive economic crisis or an ecological crisis was inevitable and my teen years were spent training and preparing for it. I still know people who believe the same things and dozens of people who feel that world events and American politics are controlled by a shadowy group of rich and powerful men.

They aren't in prison or on medication. Because their delusions are less severe? Or because they control their behavior better? Most people talk to themselves in their own minds all the time. Is hearing voices a matter of degeree? When I debate two sides of a question with myself or play chess alone, am I flirting with voluntary schizophrenia?

Of course not. Maybe.

Everyone sees the world differently, but there is an unspoken agreement of both how differently we are allowed to see it and how much it can affect our actions before society quitely labels you "other". From that point on, no matter your intelligence or the profundity of your insight, anything you say can be dismissed as "crazy talk".

Everyone has seen something unusual- the human image at the edge of your vision that disappears when you face it. The distinct sound of footsteps in an empty building. And nearly everyone dismisses it as just imagination. An optical illusion. Nothing. They move on. How many children have had imaginary playmates, as real to them as anyone in the house? How many of those children were constantly told to quit lying, quit making things up, quit being a baby until the best friend they ever had is an embarassing memory of delusion?

What if you were to embrace these illusions, look for the people at the edge of your vision? What if you were to find them? What if this was the key to the song-sorcerers of the Finnish Kalevala and the lost Druidic mysteries? Would you be allowed to return to the world that everyone agrees on? Or would they give you some chemicals and call it "crazy talk"?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Thinking about next year. In many ways, the hardest part about this job is the shift work. In the last 15 years only twice have I been on the same schedule two years in a row. It makes long term commitments difficult.

Very few jujtsu students have been able to stay with me for more than a year at a time. Some years, the schedule is hard for people with regular lives to make- noon and midnight classes one year, just noon classes this year. Eight A.M. three days a week a few years ago. It ends up with a small group of students who are also officers and work the same shift. Hard core, but few will happen to switch shifts to the same one I do.

Next year will be another shift change, probably to day shift. It will be great for the kids. My wife and I will have less private time together, which will be a loss. I can so easily imagine dropping all the extra activities and concentrating just on the home. Evenings spent helping the kids with homework, reading "The Aenid" aloud to my daughter. Hacking at blackberries and teaching myself how to repair the mowers and rototillers that are so necessary on a small farm.

So many temptations, though. I miss Search and Rescue. On top of doing good work in the outdoors and extra training, it's great to work with a group of teenagers who aren't criminals. If you need to restore your faith in humanity and particularly youth, volunteer with a busy Explorer SAR group. The kids are heroes and many have done and seen more between the ages of 14 and 20 than most sedentary adults will experience in a lifetime.

The Obukan Judo club beckons. Judo holds the place in my martial heart of a first serious crush. I'd love to go back and sweat and slam with that venerable club. Day shift would make it possible.

Teaching. For the most part, I don't enjoy teaching. People are looking for answers and I'm telling them to look, to just see. It would take maybe two full days to teach everything that works as far as technique... it takes longer to learn to see, but I'm not sure it can be taught, only shown. So why do I teach? Because I find so few people that are able to talk or play at the level I want unless I trained them or they have both lived it and kept the inquisitive spirit up. People will ask me to teach and I will want to. Temptation.

There are events planned. I'm slated to teach at the Gulf Coast Jujitsu Camp in Alabama in January; Martial University in Seattle in May and the Uechi Summerfest in August on Cape Cod, so I'll have my hand in and be able to play. Will it be enough?

Honestly, I'm tired. Physically, mentally and down to my soul. A year off sounds good, with the understanding that a year off means ONLY dealing with about 400 inmates a day, 130 of them with severe psychological issues, leading and training a tactical team, designing and teaching courses for my agency, being a good husband and a good father to two autistic children, keeping a small farm in repair and trying to reclaim it from the scourge of blackberries, improving the house and land, teaching at a few seminars across the nation and working on a book or two.

That's not too bad. That's about half off the current schedule. It does look restful. Still, there's a lot of temptation.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Last night I read a detailed description of an old civil trial concerning an officer-involved shooting. It wasn't an official report and the reporter made no attempt to hide his or her bias. They wanted the "Murdering pig" to pay. The reporter wrote in detail as the plaintiffs presented their rock-solid case and described blow-by-blow as the plaintiffs attorneys shattered the flimsy defense.

The writer was shocked, absolutely shocked when the jury found unanimously in favor of the officer. So were the many people who posted, the people who thanked the writer for the account. It was clearly a miscarriage of justice...

Yet twelve people heard exactly what the reporter heard and NOT ONE came to the same conclusion. The reporter had made up his mind going in and heard what fitted, dismissed what didn't. Each member of the jury must have had a personal bias at some level, too, but the voir dire process is designed to weed out the blatant ones.

So where is my filter for this? I've been in enough violent encounters (but only one shooting) to never say. It's chaotic and sometimes you make a decision in a fractioon of a second on partial information that can impact many people for the rest of their lives. That's why officers and people with experience of violence when asked whether something in the news was a "good" shoot always say, "I don't know. I wasn't there." (And what's a "good" shoot anyway?)

There's a further slant, too. Of the last three local shootings that I'm aware of I didn't know any of the officers and I knew all of the crooks- and they were crooks. For fear of speaking ill of the dead the media largely ignored the criminal history, histories of violence and even the toxicology of the dead, and always used the word 'victim'.

Here's one to think about- a mental patient rushes an officer with a metal pole. Pepper spray (OC) has already been used on him with no effect. The officer fires.

To the officer it was a stocky crazy guy rushing with a weapon; ignoring the drawn firearm, verbal commands and shrugging off OC indicates a dangerously altered level of consciousness. Those factors, to the officer, combine to the decision that his life will be in danger if he doesn't fire.

To some it was a small, mentally disturbed patient brandishing an IV pole ruthlessly shot. His family swore that he was very gentle, had never harmed or threatened to harm anyone and was probably just confused.

To me? I wasn't there. I don't know. But less than twenty-four hours early that individual had been booked into my jail and suddenly turned and attacked me. I'd put him down and cuffed him without injury. Advantages of decades of training and experience? Maybe. Or maybe I just didn't have a firearm.

Who is right? The officer? The family? Where are their filters? Where are yours?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Agreement and Time

Almost an epiphany today. It was like an epiphany because it was an insight that affects almost everything else, but it wasn't a new insight. An old insight is applied to a new context and the world shifts slightly.

It's amazing how much of fighting is mental, how much is pure imagination and how much is an unspoken agreement. Hollywood knockouts, where you get hit in the head and go to sleep for awhile and wake up fine don't occur in nature. If an animal gets hit hard enough in the head for it to go down, there's some serious damage. Same with focused people and people on drugs. But sometimes you give a light tap to a healthy person who has no stomach for the fight and he'll drop, convinced he's been "knocked out". Or you'll take a well aimed hit with no loss of consciousness and be dizzy and puking for three days.

Jointlocks whether on martial artists, new students or threats are largely an agreement. If you put your best wristlock on me if I choose not to buy in to it it falls away. Healthy people can power out of many locks or slip locks, but they think that they can't. It's instinctive and part of an agreement: if I push you, you push back. If I pin you, you struggle against my weight. If I hammerlock you, you struggle against the places you feel pressure, the very places I have the most securely. It goes back, probably, to children and animals attempting to establish dominance.

To struggle against emptiness, finding the voids in locks and pins is easy and powerful and so counterintuitive that it often seems magical when someone does it.

Space is time. Time is space. The epiphany today was realizing, with the help of Devin, that we also hold subconscious agreements about time.

Any good fighter can tell you that he can control the tempo of an altercation. It's dangerous to do in real life, but I have slowed down and found the threat subconsciously slowing down to match me...and once with a PCP freak I found myself accelerating beyond what I thought was my maximum speed to catch up.

Timing is one of the classic elements of dueling and sparring. It's simpler in a real fight but still critical. We emphasize getting and maintaining the initiative, taking the fight to the threat. Fencing has some of the most sophisticated timing concepts of any martial art. Fencers talk about 'beats' where, if I attack on the half beat and you attack on the full, I will win.

The Japanese phrase for this constant assault tactic was "Leaving no space for death to enter". Loren Christiansen has phrased it as elegantly as possible, "There are so many beats in a fight. I want each of those beats filled up with my stuff."

An overwhelming attack is a very, very reliable way to take out a threat. You take up all the time, leaving none for him...

Today it became clear that this, too, is an agreement. Everyone in a battle has their own time and their time is all theirs. It can only be taken away if it is given up. You do not have to wait politely like a child trying to get a word in on a family argument.

Try this with your students (safely)- it's a well respected tactic- throw a flurry of chain punches or 'rolling thunder' at their faces and watch them cover and, subconsciously, wait for their turn to respond.

If the same rain of blows is coming at your face there is nothing but your own mind keeping you from hitting back at the same time... but it does, reliably enough that predatory criminals count on it. His time is not yours.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Juggling Unknowns

I love teaching, obviously. The seminar format is the best- you walk onto the mat or into the room and you have to size up the audience. Probably you could teach to a cookie cutter lesson plan, but that's not teaching for the student, that's ego stroking for yourself. In any group you should make one connection with everyone and find at least one thing you can help them with.

This can make it pretty chaotic. Most of my classes start with asking, "What do you need to work on today?" Most students don't have an answer. I don't believe that they are blind to their own needs, it's more that they don't grasp that they have permission to act and to guide their own training. For a few, for one in particular, I think she withholds suggestions because she wants to see the unknown territory... that's good too.

In a little over two weeks I'll be team teaching with relative strangers. One I feel I know pretty well as a martial artist and teacher. One I know a little bit as a person, but have never actually seen him on the mat. The third is a mystery.

It's fun, for me, to try to coordinate an ambitious plan by e-mail. I'd be perfectly happy winging it- "What do you want to learn today?" Almost as happy with a detailed lesson plan. Comfortable.

I don't know where the other instructors are comfortable. I'm as big an unknown to them as they are to me.

We'll see how it goes. It will be a blast, one way or the other.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Spent yesterday getting fourteen officers up to speed as instructors for the next round of Defensive Tactics instruction for our agency. They were, for the most part, veteran fighters. About half were experienced and ranked martial artists, about a third experienced instructors. The class is set up to be principles-based (as described before) so in about eight hours everyone was up to speed with the material but a couple were hesitant about teaching it.

When are you ready to teach?

Afterwards, Devin and Sean came over for Scotch and talk. (Hmmm, Devin, Sean and Rory- the mad Gaels).

Sean and I came up from different paths to a very similar place in terms of tactics, beliefs and ethics. I doubt if he realizes how important he is to maintaining my sense of conditional normality in this world. By that I mean that certain events, especially long term exposure to violent people and conditions can change you, but only as much as you let them. Our culture, the media and popular opinion hammer two things- you cannot fight monsters without becoming one and/or you will eventually turn into an alcoholic bastard with no friends who mistreats his wife and children. Seriously- when was the last time you saw a media depiction of a jail guard who was a good guy? Or any officer who wasn't 'conflicted'? Sean is living proof that those images are bullshit. He does his job with a great sense of duty and honor.

Devin is an excellent technical fighter who is searching for the answer, the one right way. He is young and believes that there is a right answer and a best choice in all situations. A lot was said last night about how old fighters look at things like attitude versus skill; justice versus duty; right versus effective; the cost even of the best choice in some situations; what it means and what it doesn't -- much more than most non-professionals have ever heard.

He asked at one point about what allowed us to go solo into a cell with someone in obvious excited delerium and talk them down. He asked if we just always convinced ourselves that we would win.

Sean and I both said, after a lot of thought, that we hadn't thought in terms of winning in years. We couldn't even put our finger on when or way that had become an irrelevant concept- but Sean pointed out that it was probably because we don't think of it as a contest.

To the other part of the question... nothing gives us the confidence to do it. It needs to be done and we do it, but there's no belief that it will turn out okay.

I kicked the question to Devin, "What's the difference between being brave and faking it?"

Think about that.

Because if you fake being brave, doing what needs to be done... you are still using will to overcome fear. That is bravery, right?

What's the difference between confidence and faking confidence? I get the jitters every time I teach a roomful of strangers, but no one knows. I pretend to enjoy it... then I start to enjoy it.

When are you ready to teach? If we waited until we knew everything, there would be no teachers.

George Ledyard, an aikido instructor in Seattle wrote an excellent essay several years ago. He wrote about the thousands of martial artists who talked about their 'amazing' instructors. Then he challenged them- When are you going to decide to be amazing?

Decide to be amazing. How simple is that? Work hard, but work hard to be amazing, not 'good enough'.

When you decide who you want to be and you get stuck, fake it. Not the bullshit trappings- don't pretend to be rich when you can't afford the monthly bills- the stuff that makes up you. If you want to be brave and you're shaking in your boots, fake it: Act. You want to be compassionate but you're too self-absorbed, fake it: Listen. You want to be strong and you're small and out of shape, fake it: Pump some iron, run. You want to be confidant, fake it: Talk to a beautiful stranger.

These habits become you, and you pretend your way towards your ideal.