Thursday, December 31, 2009

Re-Cap. Ho Hum

End of the year is a good time for a wrap-up.
2009 was intense on a lot of levels- I made friends I will never see again, and some I am sure I will. Names that can't go on the internet among them. Found out I can be lazy for as much as three months before I start to go stir crazy.

Found out I can kick out a decent book very quickly- but gained almost ten pounds doing it. Sometimes people talk about balance, but sometimes you make great strides when you go off balance, falling or throwing yourself into something with your whole being.

Still hate getting older. Not sure I would notice if not for old injuries... and there is some psychic drag developing which needs to be jettisoned. As a young man, I'd try anything. I needed a reason to NOT do stuff. More and more, unless I find a compelling reason, I'm giving a lot of things a pass, things that might be fun. That needs to change. I think tomorrow will be a good day to jump in a cold mountain lake.

I lost my journal for several months early in 2009, and then really didn't work on it for the rest of the year. Between daily reports and a work log, everything felt like it was being documented well enough. Still- the continuity and ability to look up dates would have been nice.

Memories of 2009? Kissing K in an Irish castle; A punch bowl full of emeralds in Istanbul; sparring with my son; dancing in Kurdistan; a present for General A; BBQ with the Pariah Dogs...
Strangely, but exhausted as I was, I have no memory of arriving in Portland after Iraq. I remember Kuwait and wish I could forget; and out-processing at Benning; and the sunset from the plane... but not the arrival, seeing my family. No memory. How odd.

For 2010? I think it's time to let myself get out of balance and practice being young again. I'll let you know how that works out.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Had a long talk with Kris Wilder the other day. It made me introspective, as talks with Kris are wont to do. He comes off as the classic bluff and hearty good ol’ boy… sometimes it takes a few minutes to realize that he was talking about some very deep stuff.

He’s also incredibly analytical, which you will see in a lot of his writing, and he lives truer to his beliefs than most are willing. All good stuff.

But enough about him. This post is all about me and, in a way, all about the blog and my writing and how I see teaching-

He gave a good analysis of what happens on most martial arts blogs- uplifting stories, analysis, descriptions of classes or techniques. Which grows readership? What speaks to who?

Chiron isn’t about growing readership and I’m not writing for you. We all know that. What readership there is appears to be from word of mouth and google searches- but there is readership and it is growing. Despite the fact that there are very few technique posts, not much uplifting, and even if I do skewer sacred cows I don’t do it with the entertaining glee of the dedicated iconoclasts.

(I also use big words, sometimes, which is a no-no on many martial arts sites.)

It’s a matter of how versus what, I think. Because the writing is for me, it isn’t about what I think. I already know that. It’s about how I think. The deeper it gets, the more it is exploring a process. There are a lot of epiphanies here, and questions and doubt and mysteries. Those are what I think about, those are the things that writing helps to explore, the way others talk to themselves.

I think, maybe, the difference with Chiron is that you can go to thousands of martial arts sites and read what ‘masters’ and experts think… here you can read how a working professional thinks.

The blog, writing, and teaching as well. It’s not about what you know but how you learn, less about what you do than how you decide what to do. Not about what the student thinks, but how the student thinks. My interest isn’t in the end product (except as a measure of effect) so much as in streamlining the process.

The language gets weird, here. A fighter is not something you are, but something you be. Grr- there’s no really active verb for existence. You can be a painter or be a painter. You can be a painter with efficiency and intensity, or you can be a painter lackadaisically, wastefully. The painting part doesn’t interest me as much as the being part.

Thanks, Kris.


Kris also asked me to do a guest blog on his "Striking Post" should be coming up soon. It's an idea I've been working on for a while...

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Rules

My first on-line article was many years ago for Fabien Senna, the webmaster of cyberkwoon. I'd mentioned that it always bothered me when people said that there were "no rules in a street fight" because there were rules. Laws matter, sure, but there are also subconscious rules that people get stuck on. Fab asked me to write a little about some of the rules, so I did.

Along with the rules I'm coming to understand that there are scripts as well. Off and on over the years I've described several of them here without realizing it. The bad guy gets angry and expects you to either show fear or get angry back; the basic monkey dance; threat displays and dominance games...

A lot of the successful de-escalations have been by refusing to play the role or follow the script that was expected.

It would be easy to say that the scripts are social, but watching body language, even non-human primates do very similar things. One pushes and gets aggressive and loud, the other responds. Often both look to the bystanders to see if public approval is on one side or the other. Often they rely, just like people, on being separated by friends, getting to feel like they stood up without the danger of actually getting hurt.

When you start looking for it, you see this monkey behavior everywhere. And it seems so petty. There is great power in seeing the game and choosing not to play- it is almost a superpower to be able to focus on the problem and ignore the social mine-field surrounding it.

That's very cool, but in a way it is sort of a trap as well. When you step away from the monkey games it is easy to forget that all the people you deal with every day are still primates. What looks silly and petty when you are dealing with avoiding death and injury is the very definition of what others see as human... and when you cease to come across like a person, they have to figure out who and what you are.

I think this is why so many good operators get 'reined in' by their bosses even when they have done nothing wrong. It's not punishment and only partly a power play. The bosses are just reassuring themselves that the operator is still a human, still a member of the tribe and still knows his or her place in the tribe.

To be anything else is to be unreadable, possible a stealth predator, a wolf in ape's clothing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get Out of Your Way!

If you break down the koshi-waza, the hip throws, there are really only two: a full entry hip throw where you turn so that the opponent is completely behind you and your butt, ideally, hits him just above the knees; and a half-entry, where your hip bone takes him about in the crotch.

There are slight variations in how high or low to hit, the vector... but those are pretty much just things to argue with over a beer. The real difference, the reason that there are so many variations is that it is pretty hard to get your own arms out of the way.

We never explain it that way. Each of the grips has advantages and disadvantages, a place and a time. Morote seoi nage works very well for shorter, stronger judoka; ippon seoi nage is nice when you have the room to fling an arm and is much easier than morote if you are slightly taller than your opponent. That's what we tell our selves.

What is really going on is that a hip throw requires a really tight connection between the two bodies. Especially in a full-entry hip throw, your arms aren't really designed to hug something behind you. The elbows push things away, the shoulders don't go there. The key to the variations is that they are just different ways of overcoming the fact that we are physically in our own way to accomplish that goal in that position.

Making a 'proper fist' is a really big deal for beginning karate students. It is taught in great detail, great precision and the student practices again and again until his or her fists ideally become little bone clubs on the end of an arm.

It's cool, but it's completely unnecessary. I know. Shock, horror. The first time someone explained this (it was Mac, by the way) I reacted as if someone had pissed on one of my religious icons. There was no way I had worked that hard to do a simple thing right that was completely unnecessary...

But it was. The idea with a punch is to focus the power through the ends of the metacarpals. Curling your fingers tightly beginning with the distal joint and working in then locking them down with your thumb accomplishes that. So does simply letting your fingers relax and hang down. You can hit with the exact dynamics of a karate seiken with completely loose hands. Both are just techniques for getting the fragile fingers out of the way.

In individuals this happens mentally as well as physically. People drop into sport mode when survival is the order of the day. They, sometimes, grip the weapon arm when they don't have the leverage to hold it even when the grip keeps them from getting the solid blow to the brainstem that they need to finish things.

And mentally- whether we call it the inner critic as writers do or a fear of success; whether it is self-satisfaction or laziness or complaisance-- we spend a lot of time getting in our own way. If you are like most people, the biggest obstacle in your road to success is you. What are you going to do about it? How do you plan to get out of your own way?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So Close...

Argh... reviewed the pictures for the book and there are four that need to be retaken. Four poses, that is, each will require several shots. It will take time to return to the same place with the same model to do them... Or I could have totally incongruous pictures today. I think I'll wait. Alain has given me the thumbs up on the legal sections as well as a few very nice suggestions.

Confirmed with Kris and we are a go for a seminar February 20th, 1000-1600 at his dojo. I'll put together a lesson plan, a flier and get an e-mail list going.

Intriguing suggestion to work directly on a class (maybe videos? A book?) specifically for cops who need to attain control and side-step the Monkey Dancing. Primate behavior gets a lot of play in the next book, but saying, "Don't do X." Is easy. the challenge is training behaviors to replace the 'don't' and get a good effect. A lot of the strategies for people/cops whatever (like yelling or being bossy) are used because they work. But when they fail, they fail catastrophically. Need to outline the concepts and see what format will get the point across most clearly.

An old friend, a former thug who thinks a lot, may be coming up for air after a long hiatus. Might join us for the weekly brawls if his schedule permits.

Decisions to make. Things to plan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Frame of Reference

My lovely wife reads books for a local award. Some of the books, she assures me, are amazing. Many are dreck. Sometimes, to help her get through a really awful one, I'll read it aloud, doing the voices, emphasizing the unwittingly horrible turns of phrase.

K is a writer and she picks out why specific things didn't work, where the author got confused but wrote it as the protagonist got confused... stuff like that. I noticed something today and realized that it is one of the reasons I gave up fiction and, indeed, one of the major problems I have with people who live primarily inside their heads.

I read two sections today. In one, the character was dealing with emotional questions- is this really love? will it last? That sort of thing. In the second section, the characters were trying to decide what to do about someone trying to kill them.

The emotional weight, the vividness, the drama, the feeling about what the stakes were in the two sections was exactly the same. I was left thinking, as I often do, that the author had only experienced emotional pain and angst, and was trying to extrapolate that to physical agony and the terror of potential extermination.

Steve recently linked to an essay by Harlan Ellison. In the article, Ellison talks a little bit about a brush with violence. It was just a brush. He was neither the victim nor the perpetrator. For that matter, he tried very hard to avoid being a good witness. It still shook him.

That was one encounter, one step removed. As good as Ellison is at writing, as profoundly as it affected him, no matter what you feel when you read it, he barely got his toes wet in the shallow end of the pool.

He was never the target of such an act. Never been the force of nature who could do that. Certainly never been one of the people who step between the violent and the victim. For those who have, it is very different- different by orders of magnitude. Just being on the periphery, Ellison found it horrible. (I'm curious to read a before and after of his stories, see if they changed after this event).

This isn't about being a bad ass. Nor is it about 'people who live in their heads are wimps'. It's about teaching. Because this is the big issue with teaching: Many of the students have absolutely no frame of reference to understand what they are trying to learn. Neither do many instructors. How do you teach this aspect to students whose closest frame of reference is having their feelings hurt?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Universal Wristlock Escape

Small joint locks do work. I've used them, very successfully, many times. Even on enraged freaks who were huge.

They work best, however, on people who have had a little martial arts training. Put a martial artist in a sankaju (inside turning wrist lock with elbow up) and he obligingly goes up on his toes. Put him in kote gaeshi and he twists with it and goes down (or sails through the air, if he has been taught to do that.) The skilled ones go with the lock and try to essentially outrun the pain. Sometimes it works.

Interestingly, completely untrained people, especially if a little drunk, tend to do the same thing when placed in a wristlock. It doesn't matter which wristlock- whether you take out yaw, pitch or roll or any two of the three or all of them, the escape still works fine.

It works better than any technique I have yet seen from a trained martial artist. It is simple.

They reach out with the other hand, say, "Ow!" and pull the trapped hand to their chest. It works beautifully. Give it a try. And don't forget the 'ow'- consider it a primitive but pure kiai.

There is a valuable lesson here...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Caveat Lector

My mother told me that when she was little, the Catholic church discouraged reading the bible by yourself. It was considered too big, too complex, could bring up too many issues... so you were supposed to have a guide. Someone educated in what the book was supposed to mean, so that you wouldn't stumble over all the things that it inconveniently said...

There have been a lot of books written by criminals, and I catch myself wanting to fall into the same trap- they should be read, but they should be read with guidance. That's silly. It offends me when a power group says it about the bible... but I catch myself wanting to say the same thing.

People, the people who buy and read books are largely good people. They know good people. Consciously or not, they extend their assumptions about the people around them to authors.

Criminals, especially those doing serious time are not good people. They have gone into that place where they can kill or rob or sell drugs (the rapists almost never write books, or if they do they leave the rapes out) and are okay with it. When they write the books, they want you to be okay with it, too.

Violent criminals do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify their crimes. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to rationalize sodomizing an eighty-year-old woman or stabbing an eleven-year-old girl or blowtorching another criminal to death. But not only are they good at living with themselves (most like themselves and some will brag about their stabbing a child as a proof of iron will) but they are good at getting other people to be okay with it as well. There is a reason that even after a savage, vicious killer dies resisting arrest his family will go on TV to say he was a "...good boy." It's not just looking for a settlement. Some really believe it.

They are master manipulators. It is how they survive. And the ones with the skill to write, to really write, are better at manipulation. Literati seem to want to believe that beautiful writing can only come from a beautiful soul. It's not true.

So I will, reluctantly, include a few books written by criminals in the bibliography of "7". But read them at your own risk. Don't read them for how the criminal sees himself, his victims or the world because he will almost surely be lying about that. Read for how he manipulates you, the reader. How he convinces you that he is either the victim, the hero, or both. How he gets you to question your ethics... even though you have never murdered, robbed or raped.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Done... Mostly

We were going to take some pictures for the book today, but Kevin had to cancel at the last minute. Added some sections today (every time I go to sleep I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of some critical detail I left out).

But it is done. Mostly.

Confession time- I've had the shakes after a big thing and sometimes trouble sleeping for the first few hours, but as far as I remember I've never had what is called an 'adrenaline hangover'. Sometimes I'm sore from injuries I didn't notice at the time...

If anyone has a source or experience, now would be good. The thing is, unless I'm really sure I'll cut any mention out of the book. I think that's why MoV was both so short and got so little friction- I just left out all the stuff I couldn't personally confirm.

So, pictures to take, captions, indexing... and off to the publisher.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Putting it in Words

At one of the Orycon panels the moderator, Nisi Shawl had contacted us in advance and asked us to bring something to read.
The panel was about writing from the point of view of cultures you didn't belong to. It was a cool panel, and Nisi was the stand-out in terms of insight and compassion. It was a little jarring, as it sometimes is, to listen to people whose lives center around things (like writing fiction) that I can't quite see as real.

I didn't have anything to read written from another point of view, so I decided to read something from "7" about dangerous ground. The idea that sometimes you step into a new place where the rules, particularly the rules about violence, might be very different. How do you know? How do you learn the rules? How do keep from making a fatal mistake while learning the rules?

As I read, part of my mind was racing. I could be very wrong, but reading it felt like no one, ever, had put this stuff into words before. How to specifically read a room. The patterns your eyes must follow. When violating space is a violation and when it is a cultural norm. How to pitch your voice, your attitude. Where your gaze rests.

There have been masters of this skill- Lt. Sir Richard Francis Burton comes immediately to mind. Any skill I have would be rudimentary compared to his... but did he ever write down how he did it? He documented how he mastered languages in as little as two months, but not, as far as I know, how he could blend in with a foreign culture and not be spotted.

It's nothing new, lots of people do it from cops to method actors to taxi drivers... but there was an undeniable rush of creation in writing the words. Maybe it's false and the knowledge is so common it has never been written. Or some author that I've missed but everyone else knows well has already covered it...

But it didn't feel that way. It felt exactly like the first time I made a fire by friction, taking two pieces of wood and from them drawing forth an entirely new, living flame. I see why writers get hooked.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Chapter List

This is what you'll be getting:



CHAPTER 1: Legal and Ethical

1.1 Legal (Criminal)

1.1.1 Affirmative Defense

1.1.2 Elements of Force Justification The Threat

1.1.3 Scaling Force

1.1.4 Civil Law

1.2 Ethics

1.2.1 Conscious Stuff: Capacity Beliefs, Values, Morals and Ethics

1.2.2 The Unconscious Stuff: Finding Your Glitches

1.2.3 Through the Looking Glass

CHAPTER 2: Violence Dynamics

2.1: Social Violence

2.1.1 The Monkey Dance

2.1.2 The Group Monkey Dance

2.1.3 The Educational Beat-Down

2.1.4 The Status Seeking Show

2.1.5 Territory Defense

2.2 Asocial Violence

2.2.1 Predator Basics

2.2.2 Two Types

2.2.3 Two Strategies

CHAPTER 3: Avoidance

3.1 Absence

3.2 Escape and Evasion (E&E)

3.3 De-Escalation

3.3.1 Know Thyself

3.3.2 Know the World You Are In

3.3.3 Know the Threat

3.3.4 The Interview De-Escalating the Monkey Dance De-Escalating the Group Monkey Dance De-escalating the Resource/Blitz Predator

3.4 Altered Mental states

3.4.1 Rapport Building

3.4.2 The Psychotic Break

3.4.3 Excited Delirium

3.4.4 Fakes

3.5 Hostage Situations

CHAPTER 4: Counter Assault

4.1 Foundation

4.1.1 Elements of Speed

4.1.2 The Perfect Move

4.2 Examples

4.2.1 Attack From the Front

4.2.2 Attack From Behind

CHAPTER 5: Breaking the Freeze

5.1 Biological Background

5.2 What Freezing Is

5.3 Types of Freezes

5.3.1 Tactical Freezes

5.3.2 Physiological Freezes

5.3.3 Non-Cognitive Mental Freezes

5.3.4 Cognitive Freezes

5.3.5 Social Cognitive Freezes

5.3.6 The Pure Social Freeze

5.4 Breaking the Freeze

5.5 One other Habit

CHAPTER 6: The Fight

6.1 You

6.1.1 This is Your Brain on Fear

6.1.2 And This is Your Body

6.1.3 Training and You

6.1.4 Mitigating the Effects

6.2 The Threat(s)

6.3 The Environment

6.4 Luck

6.4.1 Gifts

6.4.2 Managing Chaos

6.4.3 Discretionary Time

6.5 The Fight

CHAPTER 7: After

7.1 Medical

7.1.1 As Soon as You are Safe

7.1.2 Hours to Months

7.1.3 Long Term

7.2 Legal Aftermath

7.2.1 Criminal

7.2.2 Civil The Threatening Letter Difference

7.3 Psychological Aftermath

7.3.1 Story Telling

7.3.2 Change

7.3.3 Feelings

7.3.4 Questions

7.3.5 Victim Power

7.3.6 Friends, Society and Alienation


Further Reading

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Busy Bak Son

It's been a busy bunch of days.
The Book. Working title is simply "7." I decided to evade the whole circles/arenas/stages thing and also the very clever suggestion to keep using "Violence" in all the connected titles Maybe "Meditations?" The title will be an editorial decision anyway, and David is smarter about this stuff than I am. He's the professional. The book is in rewrite, I'm waiting for one SME critique. I'll post the table of contents in the next few days.

Orycon- Sat on lots of panels with some very amazing people, notably Pat MacEwen, a criminalist with a very cool collection of pictures. Also some friends, like Steve and Bart and Guy and Mike and a few acquaintances that would be nice to know better. Got to see some of my favorite people as well. You know who you are.
The thing that always amazes me about cons and fans and writers is how huge the rift can be between their fears and beliefs and mine. In one of the panels on writing about other cultures (which I was on, I think, because I routinely work with other cultures) the question was asked, "How do you know if you have offended someone?" The authors were thinking feedback from readers. I was thinking that when the General's bodyguards reach for their guns it's a big freakin' clue you've crossed some kind of line.
The other big insight was from a panel on peace. There are people working for peace who are afraid to look at violence. You can't get there without that step. They seem to want to get to a pretty place but only travel through pretty places to get there and not see the bodycount they help to create on the way or the value that violence has for those who use it.
Disturbing moments, but the con was a good time.

Hands-on: I had the chance to do two hands-on classes at the Con as well. About 20 participants and ten observers in each. Wide range of skills, aptitudes and mindsets. There is a saying that 'the excellent is the enemy of the good'. I tend to go the other way- everything connects so I try to cover too much. They got a lot of concepts, but without the time or equipment for them to practice with any depth. Some of the class was recorded and it's good for me to watch.

I listened to a speech yesterday, and a politician who I really respected (disagreed with on almost every issue, but respected) lost my support. He made the statement that since he had written letters to the families of war dead and seen some of the coffins delivered that he knew "first hand" the cost of this war. It was delusional and profoundly disrespectful. Profoundly disrespectful gets used as a whine a lot. That's not what I mean here- to know the names but not the smiles or touch of the people in the coffins; to compare watching and writing from safety to wondering if you will get a call tonight or if the incoming alarms are real this time is not only profoundly disrespectful for those who are in danger. It is also profoundly disrespectful to the very concept of truth. There is no parity of experience between those who watch and those who do. Only the most self-absorbed of the watchers can even pretend that there is. I had thought that this man was far, far above this. One of my budding heroes is hollow.

Interview tomorrow. Prepared pretty well. Have to wear a suit.

Thanks to everyone for the condolences on Beast. Death is strange- not quite real and yet the most real and certain thing there is. It doesn't feel like loss but does feel like sadness. I expect oblivion for myself but still have long conversations with 'my' dead- Dad, Rick, a nameless baby in Ecuador, Ryan, Frenchy, Samson, Miro...

This isn't one of the things where I feel a need to understand or control. We'll all know soon enough.