Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Moving, Seeing, Training

Steve Perry asked the $64,000 dollar question today.  I've answered it or tried to answer it in many ways over the years.  Sometimes I seem to say that you can't prepare for the bad stuff, and yet I train and I train other people.  I also sometimes equate violence and martial arts as an apples and oranges thing... or even crop rotation versus hydrodynamics.

So, if there is one, what's the bottom line? (I think both Steves will get called out a bit on this one, but they're big boys.)

One of the most basic problems is in the realm of how martial artists are taught to move.  They are taught to move right.  They are taught to strike or throw or lock correctly.  This works in a controlled environment.
It's the same with basketball players: throwing free throws they can do it with precision and consistency that any sensei would applaud... but they can't deliver that kind of precision in a free-for all.  At some point each player has to transition from moving right to moving well, just getting the ball through the hoop from an unstable platform against resistance.

Most martial artists take it to exactly this level with sparring and think it is enough.  They forget (or don't know) that all live training has built-in flaws for safety.  At the best, the flaws become habits that can get you killed... at the worst, they become "the right way" to do the technique.  The part about safety flaws is an aside.  The meat is this:

Games are simple.  Life and violence are not.  If you take the basketball player who can really move well but suddenly the basket is defended by a rugby, soccer or lacrosse team, using their tactics, his moving well has to come to an entirely new level.  When he is not allowed to know what kind of team he will be playing against in advance, that's another level.  And in real life, sometimes putting the ball through the hoop isn't the way to score.  Sometimes it is and you don't know until you are there.

So most martial artists learn a collection of very specific ways to move.  It's like having a toolbox filled with pre-cut jigsaw puzzle pieces and jumping into a jigsaw puzzle and hoping to find a gap that happens to fit a piece you have.  It works sometimes, but people in real life actually say, "He attacked me wrong."

What the practitioner needs to do is to soak all of his puzzle pieces and mash it into a sort of paper mache that you can cram into an hole you can find.  It won't look pretty....

Steve (Perry) talks about ingraining technique until it becomes a natural way to move. That's key, but it needs to be checked because it is much easier to believe than to do.  When you bump into someone accidentally, do they get knocked back?  If not, you aren't naturally walking with power. When your wife turns around in the kitchen and she has a knife do you automatically close and shut down her arms?  If not, it's not instinctive yet.  Do you cover as naturally as you answer a phone or strike the solar plexus without targeting as unconsciously as you shake a hand? Do you automatically stand so that you can pop knees or exploit weak lines? Where are everyone's hands in a crowded room?  Do you monitor shadows and reflections without thinking about them?  Do you sometimes forget how to teach a technique because you can't remember another way to move?

Crossing hands with Steve Barnes he was very comfortable with close range chi sao style movement- pushing, trapping- but he had an instant of hesitation whenever I didn't do it 'right' breaking contact, say, or head butting.  Lawrence Gonzales in "Deep Survival" pointed out that one of the dangers of getting good at something is that you tended to stick with the script, responding to what happened the other hundred times instead of the different thing that is happening now.

Long training, especially with a system and instructor that you admire, sets you up for this.  You come to believe and expect and internalize his idea of what a fight will be like.  The concentration on doing things 'right' combines to instill a tunnel vision that what you are training for, the venue where the system has worked (and all good systems are designed for something and work very, very well in their natural venue) is the only reality out there.

Years before we met (and I don't really feel we've met yet, but we've chatted a few times) I sat in the back while Steve Perry discussed fighting with a bunch of SF fans and writers.  Steve said, "If you are ever in a knife fight you WILL get cut."  I started to raise my hand and my lovely wife elbowed me in the ribs and whispered, "Cookie!" which is our code word for "Don't be a monster."

Steve then said that no one ever, ever attacks overhand with the knife in a reverse grip... and my hand started to go up again.

Thing was, I've had five knife encounters (sort of, two could be considered assassination attempts and two were pre-empted, one pretty decisively.. not sure 'fight' is the right word) without a scratch.  Sean has had six without a scratch.  Brad had one with just scratches, literally, and he almost bit the dude's ear off.  Mauricio, on the other hand, has some scars that impress me, which takes some doing.

One of my attacks was the reverse overhand thing and one of the others might well have been if he'd ever got a chance to move.  It's actually pretty common.

Not putting Steve on the spot- this happens to almost everyone who trains and I've seen students swallow crap whole in cop classes and SWAT classes and HNT classes.  You start to confuse training with reality.  You've never been attacked that way in class and your instructor has a logical reason why no one would.. and you turn to your students and start using words like "never" and "always".

Which are dead give-aways.  Crap, I've had physics fail on me twice... but once was in my favor, so it balances so far.

Bigger than this "moving right" issue though, is thinking and perceiving.  If people could just see what was right in front of them, combative training would be completely unnecessary.  All humans already know how to move.  In any given situation there are obvious and effective options.  With no training at all, people are often blinded or frozen by their social conditioning.

Unfortunately training, particularly training in disciplined movement, instills these templates of what an attack looks like and the right way to move.  You wind up looking through the templates and comparing learning and experience instead of looking at what is right there.

This is easier to demonstrate than to explain.  You can go into a competition with your mental rolodex of armlocks and flip through them looking for a technique that matches what you see...or you can just see a straight arm and opportunity to apply force in two places.

When a martial artist is taught striking and grappling, they tend to do one at a time.  Instead of looking at their body and the threat's body and doing the efficient and effective thing they decide if they are in wrestle or strike mode and try to remember an appropriate technique.
One of my drills is to get the students up on the MOVEMENT/PAIN/DAMAGE/SHOCK paradigm and put them in a free play (sparring, continuous one-step, etc) with the caveat that at any instant they should be able to do any of the effects to the opponent.

The reverse POV, the technique paradigm:
 MOVE THREAT/STRIKE/TAKEDOWN/LOCK/PRESSURE POINT/STRANGLE at any given time and in almost any position, the student should be able to do all or almost all of them.  Too often training, instead of teaching the student to see more, blinders them into seeing less.

The ideal is simply to see the situation as it is.  All of your solutions are inherent in the situation.  As an organism, you see it complete and true... but as a trained, thinking person you perceive it through created filters.  Teachers teach the filters and students learn them: "You see that possibility?  Good, Grasshopper, you are now a yellow belt.  See two possibilities? Six? Aaah, blackbelt!"  But the default, the natural thing with open eyes is almost infinite possibilities.

So in most training they aren't learning to see they are learning to focus, which is a way of not seeing the extraneous- which, in this case, means all of the hundreds of things the instructor doesn't know how to exploit.

Sonia has trained with me a bit and she says good things about my teaching, but the truth is I haven't taught her one damn thing.  She'd learned to move and strike and throw and twist and slash and stab long before I ever met her.  All I've done was point at the things she missed seeing because she was too busy following scripts.

She had the aikido movement down but only used it at aikido distance- and it works much better at extremely close range once you learn to see the voids.  She knows how to force someone off balance but wouldn't remember it was an option in a fist fight.  She knows, intellectually, that it is easier to beat someone up from behind but she almost never attempted to get behind me in action- intellectual knowledge never expressing in motion.

So (and forgive the long post) I've met very few martial arts instructors who could really see and even fewer who gave their students permission to see.  What gets people killed aren't the moves or even the false confidence.  It's setting their brain- their perceptions, their expectations, their assumptions and their reactions for a limited interpretation of what they might face.

I can almost hear, "You can't train for everything."  Trying is the opposite of the right solution.  Humans are immensely adaptable, perceptive.  Our eyes don't quit seeing mountains because we've been watching the ocean (though we can be trained that only mountains matter or only oceans are real).  You practice seeing and you practice acting.

Easy, right?


Kai Jones said...

Can you combine the hypervigilance of the abused child with the trained violence of a martial artist?

Anonymous said...

Probably. But be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. Hypervigilance can be a symptom of PTSD, while a proclivity toward violent behavior can be a sign of an antisocial personality disorder in adults, and conduct disorder in juveniles.

Kai Jones said...

Hypervigilance can be a symptom of PTSD

True, but you can get over the PTSD and keep the hypervigilance.

a proclivity toward violent behavior

Is there something about being a trained martial artist that would elicit this label? Is it that people who choose to study martial arts already have this proclivity, or are you assuming?

Anonymous said...

The recent issue of Marine Corps Gazette reported that these symptoms were common in Marines returning from Iraq, and recommended that commanders identify such people and get them in for treatment.

Published studies have also found that 50-70% of the people in prison populations already demonstrate these characteristics.

As for martial artists, most of them train because of the neat duds. Want to kill a class? Take away the belts and fancy titles. You're down to a couple people in no time.

Steve Perry said...

Truth is, I've been in one knife encounter, and I didn't get cut either, but that's not the way to teach, by Rory's own light, because that's assuming your technique will work the way it should.

If you expect the worst and it does't happen, you're ahead of the game.

If you think you'll never get cut and you do, you might just fall apart at the sight of your own blood and that could get you killed. If you go in knowing you will get cut and have to keep going, that's a different attitude than thinking you'll Bruce Lee somebody and never raise a sweat. Maybe you will, but that's not the way the smart money bets.

There are guys who have soaked up half a magazine of 9 mm bullets who have kept going; others who got hit by a .22 in the arm and who fell over. What's the difference?

I dunno what I said on that panel about the overhead knife strike, but I'm pretty sure what I meant was that you weren't likely to get a slowmo Norman Bates Psycho stab wherein the knifer made one stick and then left his arm out for you to grab.

If you do, so much the better. But you don't train for the guy who gives you a break or a lock and waits for you. You train for the guy who is as good as you are or better.

Reason I've been dogging Rory to explain how what he does is different from what I do is that I really want to know. I'll stipulate that he has a lot more real world experience and has learned how to adapt what he learned there. But he's an expert, that puts him in a different league.

For me, the "right" way to move is the most effective and maybe efficient way to move, and I won't know what that is until I get there. If I have trained myself to move in effective and efficient way when a guy is coming at me in class, that might not translate to it happening on the street, but I don't see how that cripples me, and it seems to me that's what Rory is saying.

So, what *is* better? So far, what I' m hearing is that its the mindset. I won't argue that attitude is of major importance. But -- how do you augment it?

So far, what I'm hearing is all the reasons it won't work. So -- what does? If the only thing that does is real world experience, then there's no point in anybody trying to teach anybody else what to do come the real moment, is there?

If the martial arts stuff my teacher has used on the street, and his teacher used on the street can't be transmitted, then I'm screwed.

And if Rory is teaching and still learning, what the difference is has to be attitude -- since the physics of human motion are going to be the same no matter who does them. You are going to hit or kick or grapple because those are the tools everybody has, and the limits are the nature of being upright bipeds in a gravity well.

We have the same idea about an attacker doing it "wrong." What impressed me up front with this version of silat was, when told to punch and when I asked "Which hand?" my teacher shrugged and said, "It doesn't matter."

At a real level, it can't matter which hand, or which foot, or which combination thereof.

Just as the question, which is the best fighting stance? gets answered, "Whichever one you are in when it starts."

We don't wear uniforms, there's no rank, save those of teacher (Guru) or student, and we work out in garages, the back of shops, or outside on the ground.

Barnes and I go way back, we've known each other for ... twenty five years? and we trained in the same silat style for a decade. He was ahead of me by a couple years when I started. I've been training for a couple years after he moved away from the area.

If push comes to shove, I am sure I can take Barnes. (Just as, I suspect, he is sure he can take me.)

What does that mean? Anything? Nothing ... ?

Steve Perry said...

"When your wife turns around in the kitchen and she has a knife do you automatically close and shut down her arms? If not, it's not instinctive yet."

When my wife has a knife in her hand in the kitchen, I always stand outside her reach -- she can't talk without using her hands.

On a more serious note, I believe threat assessment is part of the self-defense process. If she wanted to stab me, she's had forty-odd years of opportunity to do it when I wasn't looking. If I couldn't trust her by now, I'm not sure I'd care much if she did skewer me on purpose.

There is time for thinking and assessment. If all one does is react to light and motion, then we're cockroaches ...

Steven Barnes said...

I don't want to pick on too many of the particulars of what Rory said, because I think there's something important he's trying to get at. For on the negative side, he's being too narrow if he thinks that an instinctive reflex must be triggered by the wife turning around with a knife. That would only be true if the instinct is triggered by the visual alone, separate from context (environment), or content (identity or emotional set of the person holding the knife). But apart from that, good point. Another thing: I have zero doubt that there were holes where my mind froze while playing with Rory, but the first ones were literally trying to "play the game" we ere playing: what speed? What intensity? What targeting? There WAS a game, with rules, and I wanted to play within them specifically because I knew, and know he has much to teach me. End of first part of this...

Steven Barnes said...

My guess is that formal MA structure is designed to teach not techniques but attributes: speed, strength, targeting, balance, etc. But these things are generally taught within the structure of technique. You have to give the student SOMETHING. How to form a fist, or other hand-weapon? What parts of the body are more or less vulnerable to attack? While "no battle-plan survives the first hour of actual conflict" every army in the world trains their soldiers, drills them, so that IF they survive the first clash, they can integrate what they learned formally with what they now know, and increase their chance of survival. And obviously, the more "realistic" the training (up to and including actual deadly situations and real killing) the more useful. Which implies an interesting graph: as the intensity of the training increases, so does its utility (to a point). However, the absolute utility isn't the only consideration for most people. Training so brutal that the students routinely break bones and suffer concussions might well produce survivors--but across the days of a lifetime, did it really enhance their chances of survival? Wouldn't awareness training, combined with skill in "talking down" a situation and a little basic body-language training really maximize the average person's chances of living a long and healthy life? Trying to devise the perfect art has to take into account the danger of student lifestyle, the likelihood of actual conflict, the psychological and physical skills of the student and a whole lot more. Personally, I would always want to know that the teacher has been in real conflict at least once. If they've been a police officer, bouncer, bodyguard, or some other position where they've had dozens of conflicts against committed adversaries, better still. If they've produced students who have also survived such conflicts, even better! But in those cases, the sense I've had is that the techniques just created a context where SOMETHING ELSE could be safely transmitted. In sparring, rolling or playing with such people, it wasn't the technique I felt--it was a current transmitted, a kind of live-wire energy, and the technique just made it possible to stay in the game enough minutes or hours or whatever to "receive the transmission." I think THAT'S the real value of technique. It creates boundaries in a 'game" so that a teacher who has actually experienced the chaos can transmit the emotions and subconscious assessments that might maximize your chance to survive long enough to learn. I doubt seriously Rory thinks he would have been better off, or survived as well, WITHOUT his technique. If he believed that, he would no longer practice it with a professional mind-set. What he sees are the extreme limitations on technique alone, and the difficulty of communicating in words what no one without experience can quite have words for.

Kami said...

Rory says (ID, since this is Kami's account).
Steve's- you are both right there. I can taste it.
SP- mindset is critical, but that's not what I'm hitting at right now. This is one of those hard to put into words things. Being sure- whether you are sure you WILL get cut or sure you WON'T- is the danger. Partially because you can freeze if it breaks the other way but primarily because people so forcefully see what they expect to see, what they have been trained to see. So you absorb the training, let go of the whole idea of being sure and become okay with that.

The normal purpose of training is to attempt to organize chaos- critical for the beginner- but at the next level you have to be comfortable with chaos. that's where the things that look like magic happen.

Steve B (my friend!) Understood- I've done the high end training and feel the cold in arthritic hands and old breaks and the screw in the knee and sometimes the sound of my wrist or shoulders wake me up... but I think one in every generation or so needs to take it that far and road test it. My turn in the barrel for this incarnation.

I like your idea of setting parameters so that the deeper transmission can just happen. You do need the training to safely play hard. We can let beginners unload without wearing armor and not be damaged, sometimes even let advanced practitioners test them selves and still protect our tender joints and brains...

But the key of what I am trying to say is simpler- learn, train... but never lock in. Never at any level or even for a second believe that THIS (whatever this is) is it.

The hardest part of experience is knowing that anything could get you killed if things break exactly wrong. There aren't any 'right' ways to move, just ways that worked that one time, sometimes ways that work pretty reliably, but I've had my 'A' techniques spiked and almost get me killed if not for the ability to drop them and switch without hesitation.

Anonymous said...

"If you think you'll never get cut and you do, you might just fall apart at the sight of your own blood and that could get you killed. If you go in knowing you will get cut and have to keep going, that's a different attitude than thinking you'll Bruce Lee somebody and never raise a sweat. Maybe you will, but that's not the way the smart money bets."

This may sound silly, but does getting cut really matter when you are in a fight for your life? Will you care or even notice? I think stating the obvious that a person may get cut for example could focus their attention on that instead of the job at hand which is neutralizing the other guy or at least surviving.

Mike K

Anonymous said...

"But the key of what I am trying to say is simpler- learn, train... but never lock in. Never at any level or even for a second believe that THIS (whatever this is) is it."

Kind of like a guy who practices using a staff and when asked to find an improvised weapon naturally searches for something staff like instead of using what's at hand. You get trained to the point where you're trying to fit what you know into the situation rather than acting. Or am I misunderstanding you?


Savage Baptist said...

The title of your post--Patrick Parker's post referred me here, BTW--and some of the content kind of reminded me of something that my instructor told me once, something that his instructor, an old Okinawan man, had told him--that back when he was young, "jutsu" didn't just mean "technique" or "method", it was often also used to mean something akin to "magic," as in stage magic, or magic tricks, sleight of hand, and that much of what goes on in the system is all about fooling the eye of the opponent and taking advantage of what he expects to see.

Christopher Wayne said...

Mr. Rory,

Your post and all the followup comments got me thinking. How can one learn to observe better. I mean when we spar I try to watch the hands and feet because that is what can hurt me, but what can I do to improve.

My martial art is karate and we do cover how to talk down a situation and what to look for to see what the person might do next.

Mike Renouf said...

I see a huge number of parallels with the views and ideas of Steve Morris in your thoughts here Rory. Striving to channel raw, primative human aggression is something I've only seen him write in a similar way - no one else has come close.


Please note, this comparison is intended to be an observation and a compliment.

Kind Regards,


Steve Perry said...

Being "sure" isn't the key word for me in the cut-no-cut scenario. Being prepared to deal with the idea of my blood flowing if I do get cut is key.

If bad shit happens, you can't fold. If chaos ensues and you lie down and wait for it to go away, you might get killed.

Once the fight commences, you have to keep going until you can escape or you have stopped the immediate threat. You can't stop and say, "Ow, you cut me -- time out!" if he isn't finished cutting yet.

Much of what we are dancing around has to do with ideas that a lot of traditional martial arts don't address. The punch-comes mindset tends to focus on tactics -- what to do when punch-comes. Before tactics is strategy. Avoiding being in a situation where punch-comes falls into this category. (And before that, there is your general life-plan, which might be to go out of your way to avoid places where punch is likely to come.)

I see a guy strolling across the street with a baseball bat and madness in his eyes, what do I do?

If the only tool you have is a fist, then every problem looks like a boxing match. Which, I think, is one of Rory's points. You need more options.

Running away is good. (If I am out walking with my elderly mother and my three-year-old grandson and pushing the newest grandbaby in a carriage, that might not be an option.)

Maybe I can talk him down. Find out what he wants. I can get a new wallet.

Calling 911 is on the table, if not apt to stop the guy in time, at least help will be on the way and if I can shuck and jive for a few minutes, that might give the police time to get there.

Pull my concealed sidearm, tell him to stop, and if he won't, there's another option.

No gun, no knife? Can't run? Might be something longer than it is wide I can pick up and use.

Back to the wall, can't run, no weapons save my bare hands? That's the last option I want on my plate.

A really useful martial art has to have these things addressed. Some do, some don't. Some of them leave everything outside the tactics up to you to figure out.

A lot of martial arts confine their teaching to barehanded dueling. That's a different game, I understand that.

Jessamine said...

"Fedor Emelianenko is one of the best fighters in the world when it comes to creating chaos and violence within the fight, sustaining it, and imposing his will and skill upon it. For the entire duration of the fight he violently and unpredictably takes the fight to the opponent and forces him to react to Emelianenko and so make mistakes. This forces Emelianenko's opponents to abandon their original game plans and lets Emelianenko drive the fight in the direction he wants to go."
This would also describe some of the best poker players in the world...

Thank you for this fascinating post and discussion! I'd like to recommend _Always_ by Nicola Griffith for fiction on this topic.

(I've arrived here linking through Jay Lake's LJ via snippy--or is it the other way around?)

Kai Jones said...

Jessamine: If you can get Rory to read fiction you will have my admiration. I've recommended those books to him more than once. In fact his wife and I once conspired to leave them around the house, but decided he still wouldn't read them.

Steve Perry said...

Mike K --

"This may sound silly, but does getting cut really matter when you are in a fight for your life?"

Depends on where. Having the back of your arm laid open to the bone is bad, but not so bad as having your carotid artery nicked good. (Major arteries in a normal-sized human lie relatively close to the skin. A guy carrying a couple hundred pounds of extra avoirdupois has more protective padding, but for a lot of folks, reaching an artery that can bleed them out won't require a blade longer than a penknife. Generally, longer is better, but against somebody who knows about such things, a short knife is plenty dangerous.)

Bad guys to get into a knife fight with would be butchers and surgeons. They know where to cut, and they are familiar with sharps and slicing through flesh.

An old saying is that a really expert butcher hardly ever needs to sharpen his knives.

You can survive some really nasty-looking wounds and keep going. Sundered arteries, tendons, central nervous system stuff, those tend to be more of a problem.

Anonymous said...

I think it's key to be able to group similar attacks and defenses into a small number of archetypal groups. Like Rory has said before, he has learned many elbow locks, but over time realized there are really only two kinds of elbow locks. I think once you have reached this stage, both the "seeing" and the "acting" become much easier, because you aren't overwhelemed with the possibilities.

Sonia Lyris said...

Didn't teach me a damned thing? What? That's crap. :) Showing someone the holes in their training is easy. Showing someone the holes in their thinking? A little harder. Showing them how to put useful stuff in those empty spaces? To use the empty spaces? To think differently? That's at least one damned thing.

Anonymous said...

What I should have posted...
"This may sound silly, but does worrying about getting cut really matter when you are in a fight for your life?"

One fellow I train with has been in several blade encounters and getting cut never was his first concern, killing the other guy was. I think there's more to developing the mental resolve of staying in the fight(?) than warning someone they will be cut in a knife fight.

Mike K

Rory said...

Too much to comment on- and welcome to all the new names. A couple of things right away:

Steve Perry and Mike K and worrying about getting cut. Part of seeing and part of something that every traditionalist has said is "be here now". the issue isn't getting cut or not getting cut, the issue is worrying about it or expecting it- part of your brain is dwelling in a future that hasn't happened yet. You can't afford that.

Do a quick search for the posts OODA INTRODUCTION and the other OODA post. Steve mentioned the "punch comes" mindset and how many arts miss strategy and tactics to focus on technique.. That's huge. the other side, though is that the mind, the thinking process is altered by surprise and adrenaline AND can be attacked directly, something most martial artists are completely unprepared for.

Brennan- when the book comes out, it talks about your batching concept as 'metastrategy'. It's one of the things that allows both inhumanly fast action and adaptability. For most people those are exclusive- adapatability requires thought and thought takes time.

Chris- my belief is that you learn to see by playing. Spend a day blindfolded. Fast until your sense of smell goes animal. Spend some time with a good tracker. Spar blindfolded. Possibly most importantly, put yourself inpositions where you must act on your senses quickly. Broken terrain running. Armored group fights with obstacles and tools. Rock climbing... I like blindfolded work because it forces you to process information (left side is warmer, it's about noon in winter, that must be South so I'm facing West...) that normally just passes by.

But in the end the conscious mind isn't fast enough to process stuff in time. The unconscious mind is...but often your nskills are stored for conscious access.

Lat, MikeK- no, you aren't misunderstanding... but don't lock in to getting it, either. Don't lock in.

Steve Perry said...

Mike K --

Guy has a knife, you don't, he's coming at you. Anybody tells me that in that situation, the possibility of getting cut never crosses his mind, he's got more focus than I can manage. I trained in an ER , and worked in a medical clinic for five years. I stitched up a few people who lost arguments with sharp steel. I know what a blade can do, and the possibility that it can happen to me, given my training, is way up there.

A guy who knows how to use a knife can slice you like a Cajun fillets a catfish.

Take a red, felt-tipped marks-a-lot pen and see how hard it is to play Zorro on somebody. Rory has pointed this out -- give somebody with no experience such a thing and tell them to have at it, and watch how effective the single-stab knife defenses are.

So, get cut, don't get cut, the question is: If I do get blooded, can I keep going? The time to address that question as best you can (and no guarantees) is before the situation comes up.

Some people fold easier than others. The time to train ways to maybe avoid it is before you need to know.

Am I willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Including taking a slash if that's what needs to happen?

My attitude is, not yes, but hell yes.. If I didn't consider the possibility of an edge against my flesh, I wouldn't be thinking realistically. Being cut isn't an automatic death sentence. I've been cut and stitched up a few times. I've even stitched myself up a couple times. Not fun, but also not the worst thing that can happen in a knife fight.

I expect the graveyards are full of people who thought they were bullet- or kniferpoof, and I don't want to join them just yet.

Anonymous said...

"Guy has a knife, you don't, he's coming at you. Anybody tells me that in that situation, the possibility of getting cut never crosses his mind, he's got more focus than I can manage."

Steve, I guess I'm not being clear which isn't a first. If you have time to think about getting cut you have time to think of something more useful to save your skin, but that's assuming you have anytime to think at all. When someone tried to rob me at knife point it really didn't register that he even had a knife until I was looking at the small slice in my leg. When a buddy of mine during an op was surprised by a guy swinging a machete at his head he only time to get mostly out of the way and then kill the guy with the same machete. We're talking 1 to 2 seconds at most.

Any thought of what can happen rather than acting is going to put you behind in the OODA loop.

Steve Perry said...

Take a guy raised on an island somewhere with no natural predators.
Say this guy has no contact with the outside world.

Now, drop a tiger onto his island, and I guarantee when that cat grins at him, that man's fight-or-flight syndrome will kick in, because the hindbrain lizard knows danger when it sees it.

It's hardwired into the system.

I know what knife is. I have experience with knives, cutting, being cut -- accidentally -- and I know what they do.

If you have the wherewithal to recognize a knife for what it is, then it is intrinsic in that recognition what it can do.

You might not believe it will happen to you, but if the thought doesn't spark a few dendrites down in the "Oh, shit!" region, you have a problem in your wiring.

What you do once you close and the blade is within cutting range can't be left to conscious thought, that's true. Too slow.

You don't trade your punch for his stab -- bad deal. And soome of the guys who fiddle with such things have a whole bunch of other tools they can use along with the knife, which makes them really, really, dangerous. And you aren't gonna know if this guy is somebody who can barely open the thing without slicing his own finger off, or somebody who can peel the skin off a peach with it without bruising the fruit.

Sure, if somebody sneaks up behind you and stabs you, or clunks you upside the head with a baseball bat, there's not much you can do.

But if you assume the guy in your face has a knife and you are looking for it, that might be useful. And if you see him pull it fifteen feet away, you need to know he can get to you and do damage in a really short time.

People do die from knife wounds. You need to know that's possibility if you see one in time.

I'm here to tell you that stepping in and taking it away from somebody who knows what he is doing with your barehands without paying for it is iffy in the utmost.

Find somebody in a knife art and give him a marking blade or pen and dance. See what you think when you get done ...

Anonymous said...

"Find somebody in a knife art and give him a marking blade or pen and dance. See what you think when you get done ..."

Why in the world would I want to even attack anybody who has a blade? That's a quote from a new student when I asked him to do what you asked.
In my opinion the only thing that drill really does is to point something out to martial artists what an untrained person already knows, a guy with a knife can be dangerous. We do a bit where we head out into the woods and you see how many weapons, distractions and barriers you can find from the time the guy with the knife moves until he reaches you. Great drill to do in the home too. Which is the more realistic and useful drill? Which drill could have the most open outcome? Which doesn't have a predetermined winner?

Our training can also cause us to focus on something to the exclusion of what else is around. I look for a knife, and maybe find it, but miss the heavy object he's reached for and that he's swinging at me. Whoops, reset the OODA loop. I've also missed what possible weapons I have at hand that could save my skin. Just a different opinion.


Kai Jones said...

Our training can also cause us to focus on something to the exclusion of what else is around.

I've been wondering about that, from my complete lack of formal training.

My informal training is that the person is dangerous, period. Hence hypervigilance: anything they do might injure me. It doesn't take a knife or a rock or a stick, it's the person who is dangerous, with or without tools. Being aware, moving through conscious awareness (which is exhausting) to constant low-level responsiveness to the environment was a successful strategy for me.

But I don't know how to share that without undergoing my experience, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody. The next step, which was just as hard, was to let go of most of that unconsciously-gathered knowledge and live in the moment. Not be running constant scenarios, planning responses, but to some extent trusting that if I need a response, I have it available.

Eh, this is so hard to put into words. I'm not at all sure I'm succeeding here.

Anonymous said...

Kai. I think you did. :)

Mike K

Steve Perry said...

Mike K --

Not arguing that the observe-orient-decide-act loop is wrong, far from it. Just pointing out that seeing a guy with a knife is part and parcel of every step in it.

As I understand it, the OODA focus requires more than just ducking an incoming punch, it needs -- however quickly you do it -- a process of the intellect -- this or that, here or there, what to do -- and for me, the first part, observation, means to see what the problem is. It might be that you'll treat a barehanded hundred pound woman coming at you the same way you would a two hundred and fifty pound man with a bowie knife, but those differences might require some adjustments.

I don't shut down my wife when she waves the kitchen knife because my brain knows there's no threat there.

Seeing a guy step out of the shadows while I am walking through a dark alley might not mean a threat, either, but I am sure going to be paying attention to the possibility.

I know about Colonel Cooper's Color Code. I try to pay proper attention.

I'm not for a second arguing that what Rory does doesn't work -- I've heard from folks I respect that it does. What I'm kinda amused about is what seems to be the notion that what I do won't work.

Lumping all "martial arts" together isn't, in my opinion, not be altogether valid.

As Orwell realized in Animal Farm, all the animals in the barnyard are equal, only, some are more equal than others.

Having played with half a dozen martial arts for forty years, including those that were from Japan, Okinawa, China, America, and Indonesia, ranging from some that were focused on kata and winning no-contact matches to those that have been used in death matches, I can see a difference.

I used to be on Marc McYoung's email group. He liked to say that martial arts didn't work, especially mono-styles. That used to tickle me no end, because I knew he was paying to fly my teacher in to teach him and his classes our mono-style, and that privately Marc told me that my teacher was the deadliest guy he had ever personally seen.

Something of a disconnect there ...

I don't claim that that we do is the be-all, end-all perfect art. It isn't. I don't think there is such a thing. But I do believe it is useful, and since enough people I know have actually used it and thus walked away from streetfights, I don't think it would be stretching the point to make the leap that, hey, you know, it might work again ...

Anonymous said...

"I'm not for a second arguing that what Rory does doesn't work -- I've heard from folks I respect that it does. What I'm kinda amused about is what seems to be the notion that what I do won't work."

Steve, You and I are in similar situations but maybe from different approaches; I know what I've trained is sound and will work, but since I've never used it like the guy I train under has I have a bit of self doubt. When I train someone no matter how sound what I'm passing on is or how well I teach it or how many stories I pass on about my friends battles, it's still second hand information. That's just the way things are.


Steve Perry said...

Mike --

True enough, you never know what you are going to do until the moment arrives, and that can be expanded to everything, from eating breakfast to slugging it out in the parking lot next to the neighborhood pub.

I have a crystal ball, but it doesn't work like the gypsy's down on 34th and Vine; it just sits there and refuses to predict the future.

Then again, I have been under stress a few times in my life, doing things that were matters of life-or-death. Sometimes they were really stupid actions on my part, other times, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and didn't see it coming.

In such cases, I did the right thing to survive enough times that I'm still here. I spend some time training in an ER, and more years working in a medical clinic where, every now and then, things got really chaotic.

So while I can't claim to know how I will behave in the future for sure, I have enough experience in the past to feel pretty confident, given the tools I have, that in some situations, I probably won't fall apart.

My experience with violence is small. But I've had guns pointed at me a couple times, been shot at a couple times, and had one encounter with a stoner waving a knife in my face.

So, the question is, how many times do you need to see the elephant to know it when you see it again?

Fifty times? A hundred? One doesn't count for much, but it's kind of like losing your virginity. You can't go back to where you were before.

It's true, I haven't had to use my silat on the street. And getting clobbered in class real good doesn't count, save as how I have gotten used to seeing guys come at me, knowing that if I miss the block I will get hurt.

And the one time I did the knife dance, I had an art that was simply not as good, nor as effective as the one I play with now. That was like a .22 revolver -- useful, but limited in power when compared to a .357 Magnum.

I don't have any doubt that it'll work, and every reason so expect that if I reach for it, it'll be there.

George Emery said in a talk I heard him give once, "When you know who you are, you know what to do.

I'm pretty sure I know who I am. Whatever my illusions might be, I've integrated them into my working persona. They got me this far ...