Monday, March 09, 2009

The Seventh Circle

It's all over. The cops have shown up, sirens blaring... or they haven't. The ambulance has rolled away, or it hasn't. Whatever adrenaline you had built up that didn't burn up in the encounter does so now and you might get uncontrollable shakes. It's all over. But it isn't. 

I could divide this stage up easily, by time and by effect, but that would be too much, so I just lump it together here as the seventh stage, the Aftermath.

You may be injured.  Hell, you might be dead, but in that case nothing I write will really have an impact and I hate wasting time. You might be crippled.  There will be physical effects after a fight, usually. I think one of my reasons for preferring positioning/controlling/open-hand arts is that they do less injury to me, and I don't know after one fight if I am done for the night or if there will be more.
So, even if you win you may have to deal with a concussion, a face not as pretty as it used to be, a hand that you yourself broke when you disregarded the big bone/little bone rule.  Those are the easy and obvious things. You might not notice a knife or bullet wound until you collapse.  I've long suspected that a soft spot in my lower abdomen is actually a mild hernia from a long ago fight.  My left eye is blurry years after the encounter where it was gouged. A deputy from my agency died about twenty years after being shot in the head. Complications from the wound. Twenty years.  Sometimes it is never really over.

Who attacked you?  What kind of life did he lead?  Were fights and needle drugs and bad hygiene just business as usual for him and does the blood pouring down his face and your torn knuckle mean hepatitis or HIV?  When your elbow contacted- nice, solid, good technique- and the shattered stumps of his teeth penetrated your skin- did the bacteria cross over that will put your life in danger in a few hours?  Septicemia.
You can't ignore the aftermath in your training- what good does it do you to win if you go slam a beer and get some sleep afterwards and wake up with an arm the size of a watermelon, a fever and red streaks running up the vein?  Have you really won if you knocked the bad guy out but need to choose between death and amputation? (I have some good pics of this, but they aren't my copyright, so I can't post them. Ask, if you see me with my laptop.)

Ignoring all the diseases and potential joint and back injuries and all that weirdness, when you hit someone, two surfaces are contacting at the same speed. Your fist is imparting just as much force to his head as his head is imparting to your fist.  The force on both sides is the same.  The key is that different tissues absorb force differently. Even if you won, significant force has been dealt to your body- even if you dealt it. Something to think about- have you been training to impart this force wisely, maximizing damage to the threat, minimizing damage to yourself?

Then the emotional aftermath.  It hits different people differently and on a lot of levels.  I don't get much of the standard PTSD aftermath. I don't have flashbacks or panic or sweats or nightmares (not yet- am I immune or simply haven't reached my threshold?). On the other hand I can rarely sleep for longer than four hours and don't feel that I have much in common with most people.  For me there is a real sense of disconnect- especially with martial artists and theorists.  It doesn't come up much on this blog but it used to when I was more active on BBSs, I would catch myself not wanting to even engage, just thinking, "Fucking moron, believe whatever makes you happy," and then go strap on guns or body armor and go to work.

The people it does hit hard have had their entire identity destroyed.  I could go into that in great detail with more space and time.  People spend their whole lives figuring out who they are, making up a story.  In an incident of extreme predatory violence, everything they have come to believe, everything they have ever counted on no longer is true.  The world, people and even the self are not what they are supposed to be.  That last is the hardest.  Win, lose or draw people rarely live up to their mental image of who they should be.
There is a lot here, stuff to know for your self, stuff to help others.  There are things that happen at low levels, too. There are prices for walking away.

There are even emotional consequences of fearing violence and not facing it.  That is probably what is being expressed in the kool-aid drinking or the panicked weaseling when a piece of data challenges received wisdom.

So much here.

Physical effects, emotional effects and lastly... legal.

Is there a line between force and violence?  I personally feel that this is one of those things that people hold in their heads to make it more comfortable.  Fist meets flesh, head impacts concrete. Force. Violence. Tomayto. Tomahto.

The same physical action can be criminal assault or legitimate self defense.  How well you understood the first circle can make the difference in the aftermath between having issues and having issues in prison.

Aside- possibly the worst legal advice I have ever heard is to leave and hide your involvement after a use of force. Some instructors actually teach this. A cover-up makes it very hard to prove that there was no intent.

There are two legal systems as well, with differences in evidence and levels of proof.  There may be nothing criminal, not even any question of prosecution. That doesn't preclude a civil suit, or the threat of a civil suit which is sometimes enough.

All three of these are on the table after a big use of force- medical, emotional and legal complications.  Skill in Circles 2-6 all combine to remove or mitigate the potential medical results. If you avoid the situation, no injury.  A good OC, a minimal freeze and fighting skill are all about minimizing damage to yourself.  The emotional aftermath is affected most by three things- understanding your own heart and your own beliefs at level one; realistically knowing and preparing for the after effects (studying the seventh circle before you get there); and how you process the events.  The legal aftermath will depend on whether you understood the laws pertaining to force and whether you had trained with respect to those laws.

To sum up: If you want to call it self-defense, all seven of these circles are important. If any of them are unfamiliar, study up.  Being good at one of them will not protect you from a failure in the others. They all connect.

Going to be on the move in a couple of days. Yet another language. Should only be for 2-3 weeks but I have no idea what the internet access will be like.  I'll post some more stuff when I can.


Anonymous said...

I've heard the "leave and hide your involvement" idea from police officers no less, though they also said they would deny they ever said it. I think that was frustration talking. I am very skeptical about it. I know I would sleep very badly in such a case.

ush said...

"doesn't come up much on this blog but it used to when I was more active on BBSs, I would catch myself not wanting to even engage, just thinking, "Fucking moron, believe whatever makes you happy," and then go strap on guns or body armor and go to work."

I think I can remember some of your posts on e-budo back in the day, fun times.

Molly said...

Safe travels, Darling bro!
How many languages is that now?

Anonymous said...

You never even touched on the after effects on those close to you either.....another aspect of your last circle. How do the people you love adapt after violence has occured? Do they support your aftermath, from helping you heal from physical wounds to dealing with long term financial and legal ramifications? The interpersonal stuff is important too I think....

Good luck with another language! You are becoming quite the polyglot!

Stephen Grey said...

This is the best piece I've seen from you here.

Isn't it interesting how rarely you see discussions of any sort of emotional aftereffects among the gung ho at gear forums? My bet for the reason why is that the "real deal" people are the only ones who it would be a factor for and they just can't stand the hairychested mall-ninja blather that goes on there.

I know two law enforcement people who have PTSD so bad that they can only do training now. I think it's going to be a very common ailment in the coming few years, especially given the decrease in lethality for US forces in the war. Guys are surviving situations that would have put them in the ground only a few years ago, and the results aren't always good.

I think some people don't get PTSD, for some reason.

But I suspect 4 hours of sleep a night is probably a warning sign.

Mike Renouf said...


I've been a fan of your writing ever since I heard your interview with Kris Wilder a few years ago. Many of your posts here are hugely influential in my training, thanks for sharing valuable experience - hopefully I'll be able to learn from it an make my training and that of my dojo buddies into something approaching "useful".

I haven't posted before, because I know that I probably fell into the "fucking moron" category a while ago, and (if my progress in understanding real violence and how it relates to martial arts is where I think it is) at present I'll fall into the lesser category of "moron"!

Best regards,

Kai Jones said...

Current thinking among some people who treat "PTSD" is that there is nothing in it that isn't adequately described and treated by the diagnoses of anxiety and depression. As a person who has been diagnosed with and treated for PTSD, this change makes sense to me. None of the PTSD-specific treatments helped (such as EMDR), while standard treatments for anxiety and depression did.