Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stupid Questions and F'n' Morons

Both of these came up while writing the series and I didn't want to break the flow.  A while ago, Johann asked about techniques for breaking up a fight.  In the course of the answer I referred back to the question, saying " No weapons on any side is not only an assumption, but downright stupid. "  It sounded harsh, and Johann took it like a gentleman.

Here's the thing: People ask questions in different ways for different reasons. At some level people know how rarely a martial arts answer is the best answer in a real life situation. Maybe consciously, maybe subconsciously, they tweak the question to get the answer they are comfortable with.

The world is big and full of stuff.  In order to practice specific skills, martial arts usually limits those variables: Clean up the floors, know the number of opponents, it either is or is not a weapon drill...  That is all important to developing a specific skill but sometimes you need a general skill. You need to practice cheating.  You need to practice seeing and exploiting variables.  That makes hierarchical systems uncomfortable, because a good cheat can overcome a big disparity in strength or speed... or skill.  That is very threatening to people who have spent years developing skill.  You hear them sometimes when a champion gets shot or someone racks a shotgun in a demo- "Are you saying this is all worthless?  All meaningless?"

No.  But it's not the whole picture, either.  

My concern, when someone presents the problem as "assume that there are no weapons on either side" is that they are ingraining two bad thought habits. One is assuming what the bad guy does or has.  It is a way to rewrite the question so it is easier to answer, and a way to create an answer it is easy to be lazy with, to feel confident it will work provided one variable (that you have no control over) breaks your way. It is training to rely on luck. I love luck. I don't rely on her.
The second bad habit is possibly even more limiting. The world is full of stuff.  How many places can you sit or walk without something at hand that you can use as a weapon. I've been toying with water bottles lately.  They're everywhere here.  That assumption sets a habit in your brain to not look for better options, to try to find the martial arts solution to the problem.

It's not just in material and space, either.  There's time, too. I was presented with this scenario once: 

It's about 0130, you're walking on the sidewalk. Ahead of you you notice two guys acting suspicious near a parked car. They are squatting low by the passenger side door and looking around suspiciously. As you get closer, about 15 feet away, one notices you and turns suddenly with a screw driver held low in his right hand. What do you do?

Classic fishing for a MA answer. Seriously, you see two guys acting suspiciously and you get closer?  Why not call it in on the cell phone from a distance?  The best answer for this scenario happens earlier than he would accept an answer.  The guy who presented the scenario wasn't going to accept that it would take an idiot for this to happen. He had dreams for his killer kung-fu fantasy solution and he wanted it confirmed by others.

No one will ever see the whole picture, but some see more than others. The earlier you see it, the more options you have. The deeper you see it (terrain, strategically, emotionally, communication level) the more options you have. The clearer you see it, the less likely you are to make a mistake.

So, I've said it before again and again and again: we are all blind to some things, to some degree. Please, please don't practice blindness.  Not when thinking about violence. The stakes are too high.

In the last of the Circles posts, Mike made a comment that he would have fallen into the "Fuckin' moron" category long ago. He wouldn't.  A true FM can't even imagine that he might be wrong. They have the answer, know The Truth- and facts, experience or even common sense are no hindrance to their proselytizing. Ignorance is not knowing stuff. Wisdom is knowing you don't know stuff. Idiocy is thinking you know stuff. FM status is reserved for those few who insist on knowing stuff that's not true despite evidence.

We all have stories about them and it's really not that big a deal. They just make me tired and influence where I spend my time.

So, Johann, there was a piece of your question that could lead to some very bad habits. That doesn't mean in any way that I think you are stupid. And Mike- no worries. 

Aside- I realize that this shows up on Patrick Parker's site which is kind of a family thing, so I edited the title. Sorry, Pat. Hope I caught it in time.

14 comments:

ZenHG said...

Honestly, those with a killer-kung-fu complex need to really look at themselves.
It is like over-compensating, it is still a complex and it is in place because they find themselves wanting in some way.

I have found that if I want to avoid trouble then I need to stay out of troubling places and avoid troubling people.
As a father of four, working full time, and teaching part time, I cannot afford to be hurt or hauled off to jail for assumptions and the 'need' to prove myself.
That is really what it boils down to, a self-centered need to prove oneself, maybe even to oneself.
Fear, doubt, whatever.

As a Teacher I need to set an example and it would be bad form for me to end up in jail or a hospital because of something stupid.

I also work in customer service and used to work with a very unstable client base; people who often had psychotic episodes and we were not allowed to physically defend ourselves, save for shielding with arms and hands when possible.
My buddy and I had to talk a guy down with sign language as he was swinging his steel crutches at our heads and going completely nuts over a can of soda.

My buddy used to work in corrections and I am a Martial Artist.
Had we even attempted to restrain this individual we would have been held accountable regardless of his physical actions, as they were, by law, beyond his conscious control.

Killer-Kung-Fu might have worked, but to what end?
I'd be calling my kids on their birthdays from Geiger in an orange jump suit flanks by bubba and his buddy Tyron.

I have learned that Soft Skills or Interpersonal Skills, Listening Skills, controling tone and pace, remaining calm and unthreatening, these are good things, they come in handy.
My Uncle was a Bremerton Police Officer for eighteen years, prior to that he was an MP for a number of years.
The amount of times he's had to restrain people is not something he talks much about, he always says his single most important skills were listening and talking.

If I end up in a fight then that means I was acting stupid or did something foolish, messed up somewhere along the way and I really deserve what is coming to me.

Kai Jones said...

Why in the world would someone seek out drama? Whatever need that is meeting, get it another way or get over it!

Steve Perry said...

Um, Kai, recall upon whose blog this is being posted -- a guy who traveled halfway around the world because he was bored dealing with a room full of hardened, violent felons ...

Me, I see two guys doing a car prowl in the wee hours, I'm gonna cross the road and unholster the cell phone. I knew a guy who caught somebody breaking into his car, went to have words with him, and got stabbed to death for his action. And he worked in the state prison system at the highest level.

If it was my car in my driveway, I could set the dogs on them -- though the sight of charging Corgis might not exactly be terrifying, they might be laughing so hard I could get the drop on 'em ...

Worg said...

I think the "kung fu fantasy" phrase is close to the mark.

Most people have seen far more Kung Fu Theatre than they have seen real violence. That means that their ideas of violence are informed by simplistic cinema violence than they are by reality.

Then there's the fact that for some reason the martial arts and fighting sports seem to attract far more than their fair share of massive dumbasses. Why that is I don't know exactly.

If I see two guys breaking into a car I'm not going to see the screwdriver unless I've grown eyes in the back of my head. Personally I don't buy trouble. If I had my phone on me at the time I would probably call 911, but on the other hand a car is no Kitty Genovese.

Worg said...

@ZenHG "If I end up in a fight then that means I was acting stupid or did something foolish, messed up somewhere along the way and I really deserve what is coming to me."

Yes! What were you doing in that neighborhood dressed so provocatively, at that time of night?

Your statement is laudable because I understand the sentiment but it doesn't entirely hold water. Bar fights, sure. But you could get jumped walking out of an elevator. It happens more than people would like to admit: people don't always have any choice at all in the matter and to claim that they do is blaming the victim.

Ukemi said...

Again, similar to med.
When taking a history, there are always at least two pathologies you have to rule out - the most common, and the worst.

Seipai said...

"If I end up in a fight then that means I was acting stupid or did something foolish, messed up somewhere along the way and I really deserve what is coming to me."

Yes and No.

There was an incident in the news here in England only a couple of weeks ago. A woman and a man waiting in line at the supermarket had an argument about pushing in and she stormed off. She returned a few minutes later with her boyfriend. She pointed out the guy who had argued with her and the boyfriend then proceeded to beat the crap out of him. He fell to the floor and died from a headwound as he hit the deck.

The boyfriend had mis-identified the guy who she was pointing at.

An innocent, waiting in line got smacked about and died with little or no warning.

Now, I live a very peaceful life, I'm quite well off and hence if I'm going to test my training "in the field" I'd have to go out of my way in order to find danger and violence. That's not something I'm interested in doing. That doesn't mean I can't try to re-create that sort of environment in a class (with a full awareness of the limitations and faults that "manufactured reality" has).

I trained in "traditional" karate for five years in order to enjoy the fitness, the exercise and (in all honesty) to be a part of the killer kung-fu dream.

Then, from doing my own reading and studying outside the dojo, I realized how different the reality was from the line of bull that you often get sold when walking into a dojo. How easy was it to read through that bull? Well.. it took me only about 3 or 4 months to re-align my sights and aim for a practical training regime once I'd read two books (private message me if you're interested in the titles - its not the done thing to turn Rory's blog into an advertising forum.)

The problem is that too few people in the martial arts are willing to *take responsibility for their own training*. They won't question anything their sensei teaches because either they're too lazy to try, or because they feel its not the traditional way of things.

I'm just very grateful to the likes of Rory for sharing his information of what really does or doesn't work when the floor is slippy, the lights have gone out and the skank infront of him has something sharp in his hand. If I can keep that sort of info in mind then some of what I practice might just help me keep my feet long enough to run away from danger one day.

Mike

ZenHG said...

I see your points, and it really isn't a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, it is a situational sort of thing.
If you get clubbed in the head from behind, certainly there is no time to think about what you could do to avoid it, it is already too late.
Did you do something to provoke it? Maybe not, maybe so, directly or indirectly, doesn't matter.
Sometimes it just cannot be avoided, I agree with that.

However, good awareness skills, holding yourself in a manner that has a chance of deturing any would-be assailants, and having some good soft skills are still very important.
Even in the middle of something, especially considering legal ramifications, if people see you trying to talk the person down, even during the physical aspect of confrontation, it stands a better chance of holding up.

In Washington State we have a 'Necessary Force' law in which we can only do what is necessary in order to get away.
However, stemming from this, we can match the intent with which we are attacked, but the primary goal is to disrupt and escape/run and call the Police.

I've heard many stories from the Killer-Kung-Fu camp that fly in the face of this.
Many make some truly outlandish claims and I have to ask why they are not serving time or what they were doing there to begin with.

Now, a person walking down the street who gets jumped is a different story, though not entirely, at least depending on where you live.
You may live in a place that is rife with violence, or you may not.
Usually a mugger will run by, grab a purse, and keep running. Most assailants aren't looking for a challenge, they're just looking for an easy target to ensure no challenge and a quick get-a-way.
This is a simplification, not necessarily true for every encounter.
Rapists work along the same lines, though not to make a quick buck, their motivation is dominance and bragging rights, whether it is the rape of a woman or pedophelia.
I've worked with both and only one person I've worked with has shown remorse.
That is why these people are assigned community protection who are not to be any more than arms length or eye sight away from them at all times.

I was trained in community protection and we had to watch a video of all these rapists and pedophiles talking about their crimes (bragging was more like it) and how they would meticulously choose their victims and plan, often for months, before making their move.
Some of them knew the person directly, others followed them around without direct contact.

If the person presented a challenge, the rapist would often back-off, they want to ensure they can assert dominance, no answer a challenge, though there were some cases where the opposite was true.
So, nothing is easily predictable, even when you have the so-called statistics in your face.
A woman walking in a parking lot might get mugged and raped by someone who just does it on a whim.

What about gang violence? Nothing can prepare a person for every variable and even with a bazillion books on the subject of variables would never touch on every single variable.
17 years in the Martial Arts and if I came across that suspicious car with those people rifling around, I would call the cops without drawing attention.

Again, I have a family, two jobs, and I prefer to remain in good health whenever possible.

Master Plan said...

Mike sez:

The problem is that too few people in the martial arts are willing to *take responsibility for their own training*. They won't question anything their sensei teaches because either they're too lazy to try, or because they feel its not the traditional way of things.

****************

While this is true it's an interesting catch-22. If you don't know you can't question I think. And if you "know" only to the extent that you've been "this is so" by a single authority figure source (the instructor) then what is the motivation (for most people) to research the truth of it?

It's certainly a good personal trait, "trust no-one", or "trust but verify", but is it a reasonable expectation and is it really indicative of being lazy or unquestioning acceptance of authority.

I've been reading thru the BJS crime stats this morning and am reminded again, at least here in the US (and most of Europe from what I an see) crime is really a very rare event.

While Rory's advice about preparing for the High Risk\Low Incidence situations certainly applies....it's a catch-22. If you are here to read this blog you don't need to be told (at least to the extent you are interested in the truth behind crime and violence), and if you're not here to read this blog then...how do you know?

How do you escape the fantasy if you are not aware it's a fantasy?

Steve Perry said...

Catch-22. More like Catch-88 ...

Any prediction of any future farther out than tomorrow's weather is pure fantasy. And the weather guys miss that one a significant portion of the time. Care to bet the farm on what the weather will be like in an active region two weeks out on a Monday? A month away?

It's all hypothetical, even if you make plans and have intent to get into a dust-up or avoid one. You never know anything for sure about anything until you get there.

You can shade the odds in your favor. I happen to believe that the old six-pee saw -- proper planning prevents piss-poor performance -- and the other one Chance favors the prepared mind are useful attitudes.

No guarantees about anything, anywhere, any time. This is one of Rory's main and realistic points. But because it is true doesn't mean that you can't make an effort to anticipate events. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, but most of them are won by generals with a better plan starting out, determination, and, of course, a certain amount of luck.

What we wind up debating is how best to prepare for a hypothetical happenstance; which method or methods will offer the best chance of success. Rory's view is more encompassing in that it addresses possibilities starting well before blows are commenced -- that's his Sixth Circle -- and his belief that most martial arts usually start with the Third Circle, which leaves off several options.

If you are unaware, if you miss big clues, you might get into situations you could have avoided.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you go around looking for nails.

Gunfighters learn Jeff Cooper's color-coding sequence, which goes to awareness. And Rory isn't the only guy to ever say, "Hey, pay attention *before* it gets down to blades and elbows." But it flies in the face of a lot of martial arts teaching, which shrugs that off as unimportant. Don't worry about that -- you can deal with shit when it happens.

I think that's the Kool-aid aspect -- that whatever happens, you can kick ass and take names.

Where Rory and I sometimes get sideways is when I think, "You know, you aren't the only guy who looks both ways before you cross the street ..."

I think maybe I'm trying to fit into a shoe that he's not trying to make me wear.

Scott said...

That's some enjoyable reading.
I've done a lot of scenarios in wilderness first-aid and rescue. But honestly not many in martial arts classes. Unless you count listening to "war" stories from the teacher and then fantasizing my way through practice.
Since I don't teach scenarios 'as' martial arts, I'm having trouble understanding what the value of such practice is, out side of entertainment. (I'm remembering the scene in Rory's book where he has to yell at the 'good-guy' cops, "Don't die until I say you die.")What is the value of scenario practice?

On the other hand, I work with kids and we play extreme scenarios as entertainment. I've been teaching my students how to insult and complement each other. This is an extremely valuable skill for getting out of high-risk situations. It also needs to be taught because most people will say you have pretty hair while staring at your shoes.

Rory said...

Scott- There are two values to good scenario training. One only really applies if you have experienced bad guys who can 'woof' push emotional buttons and scare/unnerve the players. Practicing in a calm situation is different than practicing when you are freaked.

The second is that most people don't train with respect to laws on Force. Scenario training builds judgment in tandem with physical skills.

There is a third, for some people who haven't really played against either resistance or bad guys. Resistance is one thing and you can get that someplace else. It takes good role players but playing against people who can imitate bad guys is a huge step different than playing against good practitioners.

Rory

Johann said...

Rory,

Thanks again for the advice and wisdom.

Johann

Scott said...

Great concise answer. Thanks.

I'm thinking I should do some scenario training around fighting for parking spaces, it's a jungle out there. I'll need both the evil bad guy kind and the laws of force kind. My neighbors are evil and they suck!