Sunday, December 23, 2007

Small Circle and ABT

When Wally Jay originally designed Small Circle Jujitsu he didn't see it as a system by itself but as something you could add to any system and make it deeper and more efficient.  The physical principles that he centered it on were present in almost every style but rarely overtly.  The "small circle" wrist action, for example, was a refinement in most of the striking arts I am aware of; a rare but effective defensive move in judo and a core element of using a slashing long bade, whether katana or fencing saber.  But only in the weapons arts was it commonly pointed out and, weapons arts being weapons arts, the interesting unarmed uses were not mentioned and probably unknown.

SCJJ was largely centered around finger locks- an effective tool missing from the arts that focused on striking; removed from the sport grappling arts (two big guys rolling and allowed to use small joints result in many breaks and arthritis in later years); and rare in the older battlefield styles (our style has only one).

Wally's vision (it's changed through time as more and more people got on the band wagon) was an openly incomplete system (and all systems are incomplete- to approach completeness they would have to cover at minimum threat identification, violence dynamics,strategy and tactics, talking, dealing with the emotionally disturbed and mentally ill, all ranges of unarmed combat, all common weapons -from clubs to long guns-, impromptu weapons, escape and evasion, small unit tactics... on and on.  And don't think I'm talking military operations, those are the same skills that will get you and your friends out of a bar fight with minimum damage.) The vision was the important and brilliant thing.
I see ABT going that way too.  Awareness Based Training is the paradigm that Mac and I have been using to teach our agency.  The gains have been huge, but it is definitely not a system of fighting, or martial arts or DTs or self defense.  It's more a way of teaching.
I keep trying to come up with analogies and comparisons.  It's less molding an officer than growing one; less 'forging a warrior' than releasing a predator to the wild.
There are concepts and principles that are critical to real situations.  Many of them are addressed in most martial arts but rarely overtly.  Some of them you can see in the old kata but the modern instructors don't recognize the implications or the uses of some of these details.
Principles are the physical things that make the technique work.  Range, for example, is covered by all styles.  Some are complicated (8 ranges), some simple (in range/out of range).  A few are sophisticated (which is much different than complicated).  Balance, leverage, two-way action, using gravity, exploiting momentum... I've identified 10 or so.  Again, these are present in most if not all styles but rarely brought to the student's conscious attention.
Concepts, some of the mental things, are even rarer.  Violence is a big animal and only teaching the physical aspects of fighting is like only teaching a surgeon organ repair.  The surgeon needs to know sterile technique and how to read a medical history and how to open, repair the organs, close and prescribe post-op care...
Aside- not all martial arts teachers are teaching about violence or about self-defense.  If people are playing for fun or training for competition or adjusting their chi or getting healthier or learning about another culture that is great, and far purer and better than someone who wants to kick ass trying to learn from someone with warrior fantasies.
But if you are teaching about violence and self-defense you must address the basics: Legal issues.  Each student's personal emotional capacity for violence. SSR and how the brain and body work under stress.  The OODA loop.  How attacks happen (if you don't know how people really use a weapon how can you possibly train for it?) How to deal with freezing. How to recover from mistakes and failure. How and when to change goals. Fighting to the actual goal (if you have only ever trained for ippon and now you have to carry your daughter past threats and out of the house, how do you adjust? Practice adaptability.) Dealing, win or lose, with the aftermath- physical, legal and emotional.
Pretending these things don't happen or won't come in to play is talisman thinking- pulling blankets over your head and hoping the magic words will keep the monsters in the closet.
Almost every system I've seen, especially the systems that arose in places and times where the level of violence was horrific by modern standards, deals with these concepts.  The much maligned x-block of traditional karate deals wonderfully with the range, power and surprise of a real close range ambush attack (How do attacks actually happen) and works with the SSR (how the body works under stress).  Instructors or generations of instructors look at how ineffective it is in sparring and drop it.
All this stuff is there, but the instructors as well as the students need to learn to see it


Kai Jones said...

To see it, don't you have to face (deal with, accept the reality of) the possibility of something awful happening to you? I don't see a lot of egos that can take that; there's deep investment in "that stuff doesn't happen to me/people like me," which can equally usefully be treated as privilege, as denial, or as naivety. It's a position so strongly defended that certainly I've never succeeded in teaching reality. I only learned it myself through repeated experience.

Loudernhel said...

How DO you deal with freezing?

Anonymous said...

Hey Kai-

You learned it through repeated experience too? My "repeated experience" was to have it beat out of me, repeatedly.

I've learned far more from my failures and defeats than I ever did from my "victories." The problem, of course, is surviving those failures in order to learn the lesson.

Freezing is a preexisting survival strategy that we human beings have evolved over the millenniums. If you don't move, you may escape notice from the predators, and therefore survive. The problem comes in when your mind (the amygdala, to be exact) is confronted with a problem it really doesn't have an answer for. If there isn't a trained response that your unconscious mind believes in and knows will work it will revert to default settings (instinct). Your conscious thought processes mean little here, because the amygdala reacts MUCH faster than thought and it has the chemical authority to enforce it. It literally freezes you there against your will in many instances.

Remember instinct and survival mechanisms are designed to work over the long haul and for the species as a whole, not just for you. So while freezing to escape the notice of predators is an overall effective survival strategy, it's not much good if you are stuck in the middle of a busy freeway. It's quite a poor one in that instance.

The way around it is training, as always. Once you have training you know works and believe in and you have some experience feeling the effects of adrenaline and it's cousins then you've gone a long way to countering the freezing effect. Another handy tool is the good old "combat breathing." Look it up, it's helpful if you have a spare few seconds (which you may not, hence me putting it behind training). If you can calm your body down then it's often possible to use conscious thought to make yourself move. Ask me how I know. ;)

Really, though, I'm sure there are other ways but these are the ones I have experience with and know for sure work in life and death instances.

Kai Jones said...

Yeah, lawdawg, my childhood was rough. But shit happens, and it's surviving and making a good life despite it that count.

Freezing was trained out of me, I do observe/avoid instead. (Freezing doesn't work when your predator is another human.) And get aggressive, now that I think about it. Because aggression was rewarded with the threat going away, during my childhood. (Kid responses to grownups aren't always useful once you're no longer a kid, but these still work for me.)

Kami said...

The different rationalizations is what makes denial so interesting. The basic is always denying things that will upset the story you tell yourself.

It seems that people who have had their story shattered cling to the process a lot less- but not always. Some just work extra hard to make a less scary story.

Loudernhel and LDF- You guys know each other, at least through writing. David, IME the biggest problem with freezing is that most people who are frozen don't realize it. It is a fairly comfortable, warm, floaty feeling; sometimes a white-noise rush in the ears and often accompanied by crystal clear (seeming) thought process that just doesn't lead to action. What has worked for me through several different types of freezes is to:
1) Recognize I am frozen.
2)Decide to do something (anything as long as it is specific) e.g. Breathe, shout, strike
3) Do it
4) Repeat 2&3

I don't want to make hard and fast rules, but so far it seems that two things are the magic number. With the 91A school at the end of it we could go into a simulated copter crash with eight bodies under fire, triage, treat and transport without hesitations. The first real bloody casualty I got, I froze for a second and hat to talk my self through the first two steps of the primary survey and then training kicked in.

After the shooting that wasn't supposed to be, I actually though ,"Hey, I'm frozen. What should I be doing right now? Oh, yeah, rack another round." Do it. "What now? Oh, yeah, get out of the way for the team to enter." Do it... and from there it was just an op.

Same with my first fight in the jail, and my second for that matter.

That's my system... you get a preview before the book even comes out.

Rory (writing from Kami's profile)

Anonymous said...

ABT has a single hypothesis: that all reaction is just that, and not cause, because the mind (the spirit for you MA's out there who have studied past/survived the ass-kicking years) is not calm. That we live and act from the surface of life, as a person in a lifeboat on an ocean. Some days (on the ocean of life) are calm, warm and beautiful and we feel the same, some days are violent and stormy and it's all we can do to hang onto the lifeboat. If we could have a submarine that cruises effortlessly beneath the surface, and have remotes in space that let us see our submarine, it's position, direction, surrounding life and blocks and threats in our direction of travel, how much more cause could we be? Esoteric? To call it that is to deny one can train to that level, or even that that type of 'consciousness' exists and can be cultivated. It can, but most people spend little to no time training what takes the most time and is the most subtle, but also the easiest. Humans want it to be hard, visible and short. Thus complexity, confusion and doubt.