Sunday, May 21, 2006

MUQ-2006: Philosophy

Got back from Martial University late last night. Three hours driving, seven hours playing, three more hours driving on less than four hours sleep... just whining.

One of the participants, a karate instructor (and I did not get his name, damnit) got me after a session and asked "What's your over-all philosophy of self-defense?"

Hell of a question, isn't it? He noticed the hesitation and quickly threw in his to give me a starting point- conditioning and fitness are the key. Hmmm.

It's one of those things that is both so right and so wrong. On the right part, fit people look less like victims. They'll get challenged somewhat more in monkey-dance scenarios (in my experience), but predators look for the weak. Just being fit is an edge.

But.... as you age and fitness fades (who will truly be in fighting trim in their eighties?), you become a more appealing victim. When you are injured, you are a more appealing victim.
But fitness makes everything work better...

I think if I ever develope true philosophy it will be a big step towards moving this from just a collection of observations and facts (a natural history) into science. The hardest part about writing about violence and self-defense is organizing the information. I've used artificial frameworks to make the information easier to remember and understand, but I hope that somewhere there is a natural framework that will snap everything into focus.

Here are some artificial frameworks that can be used like philosophies:

OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Observation training would cover alertness and situational awareness. Orient would cover predator/prey dynamics, violence dynamics, violence escalation, legal ramifications and all that stuff. Decide is simple- find the student's 'Go buttons' and train them to act. Act would cover the physical part from verbal de-escalation to and through lethal force.

The Big Three: Awareness, Initiative, Permission. Awareness and Initiative are close corollaries of Observe and Decide. Permission addresses the fact that many people are not okay with hurting another person or doing what needs to be done and works specifically on this.

Traditional training: works the skills and assumes that the student will be able to use them effectively and appropriately in an emergency.

Scenario training: puts the student in a situation to experience and learn to deal with adrenaline effects... but does the student learn to deal with adrenaline or learn to see the training as a game?

Too many good ways to teach it. I would generalize (guess), that self defense has to center around a handful of things:

1)Awareness- if the person doesn't pay attention or doesn't recognize a problem, no skill in the world will help. They need to learn how to be watchful and what they are watching for, which will cover a lot of crime/violence patterns.

2)Skills- the person needs to have something they can do, in fact several things for different situations. But they must not be confused about the situations or by the number of skills. The skills must be simple enough to be resistant to stress and be effective.

3)Judgment- the student must be able to recognize the situation, choose the right response and do so quickly.

4)Decisiveness- the student must be able to act explosively and without hesitation.

5) Capacity- the student must be able to do what they have been trained to do without crises of conscience or subconscious pulls or squeemishness or social conditioning interfering.

There are more, but these are a start. I don't have a hard and fast philosophy about self-defense, but I think I do about teaching self-defense. The job is to check the student in each of these areas and work on weaknesses as they are identified. That's what the predator will do after all: the predator will evaluate each of these areas for an opening and attack on that line. Poor awareness? Blindside. No skills? Beat him down. Poor judgment? Trick her into vulnerability. Indecisive? Overwhelm with arguments, patter or fast action. Capacity? If the victim can't make himself hurt the predator, it's lambs to the slaughter.

Good question.


Mac said...

Ohhh - self defense! This one's easy - RUN LIKE HELL!! Just send in $100 and you'll receive a beautiful hand-lettered scroll declaring your skill.

samenhelen said...

Been reading some of your old stuff...

I laughed about Mac's comment, it reminds me of what my self defense teacher used to say: "Run, get the hell out, or better, don't be in that situation in the first place"

Good post!
I like to add that it's key to not do anything halfhearted, in any stage: Do your best to avoid hazard. If you have to run, run like hell, if you can't run: Do anything you can to de-escalate (screw your ego or other petty things when the stakes are much higher than that), ANYTHING. If you can't de-escalate, then it's on, totally on and always, always with the intention to get out.

To me, selfdefense is about allowing yourself to see and admit that violence is very real and giving yourself permission to act with total dedication to getting out. "Whatever it takes".