Friday, August 27, 2010

VPPG Thoughts

Good VPPG yesterday. I have tiny finger-nail cuts on the inside of my ear and am pleasantly sore throughout my core. Skin scraped off one hand and both forearms. Good day. The brawling was good. The thinking was better.

The VPPG itself, the Violence Prone Play Group, is for good people (defined as people I like who have skill and who volunteer) to get together and play. Partially just to bang with people that have a similar idea of what good play-brawling is, but more important is that we experiment and ask questions: what works two on one in a corner? How do you fight multiple people if you can't see? What are your options when you aren't tall enough to reach the reset buttons? How do you get a concept through to students who get hijacked by instinct and don't realize it?

That kind of stuff.

I get the lion's share of attention on much of that. I'm hitting some walls head on, running into resistance in what I teach and how. It intrigues some of the other group, amuses some...I get a lot of help there, some of it beyond what I can understand on any given day, but it is deep, heartfelt and I am grateful.

While it is still fresh in my head, some of the insights (maybe truths, maybe just insights into my thought processes):
  • Martial arts is a technical skill, but applying martial arts, fighting or self-defense, is primarily an emotional skill.
  • We don't have good paradigms for teaching emotion. A little bit on discipline and emotional control, but almost nothing on slipping the leash while maintaining control.
  • The emotional aspect hits every other piece- you might see it coming, but whether you accept what you see is less cognitive than emotional. So is whether you will act...almost everyone who has ever frozen knew, intellectually, what to do. To engage in the fight as an animal. How you will deal with the aftermath. All emotional.
  • We slip into the thought process that emotional skills can be taught like physical skills. You can teach martial arts the way you can teach algebra. I don't think that's true for fighting. The difference is qualitative.
  • The only time-tested method is war stories + personal experience + de-brief. Not sure if that is practical if, as is likely, there will be little or no personal experience to debrief.
  • It is my belief that women have a much deeper understanding of sudden violence than men. They can empathize with the profound suck, and it tends to freeze women for different reasons and in different ways than men.
  • Men freeze because they have this ridiculous fantasy that rarely survives first contact.
  • And so (the math may not work on this) I tend to use the same experiences and the same stories to get opposite effects in men and women. Women I want to grasp that if the horror only prevents the victim from acting, there will always be a victim. I want them to find a go button, attain permission, and slip the leash. For men I want them to step out of the bullshit fantasy and look at the real, messy and expensive (in so many ways) problem that they daydream about.
  • Would it be possible to do a class/seminar just on the emotional aspects, just on the glitches? Or do I only have questions at this point?


ctkwingchun said...

Damn. Love it...gets to the heart (read: spirit/emotion) of the matter. Would definitely make a good topic for seminar.

Patrick Parker said...

You're welcome to hop on down to Mississippi and beta-test that seminar idea on us ;-)

Jason Azze said...

Regarding women grokking sudden violence better than men: I read de Becker's The Gift of Fear at your suggestion. Page 66: "[Women's] lives are literally on the line in ways men just don't experience." This statement flipped on a light switch for me. Connecting it to the freeze is an interesting idea. There's something to explore in that.

DagneyTaggert said...

I am a woman. I've always had a "go" button. Formed when I was 9. I walked home from the school bus stop one day, crying because the other kids called me a "narc" for alerting a teacher that one of the boys was carrying a pocket knife. I wanted a ride to school the next day.

My dad looked me in the eye and said, "We are not giving you a ride to school. You walk up there tomorrow, and if one of those kids makes fun of you, you punch him in the face as hard as you can." And that was that. My father was not raising a ninny.

I have always had an ingrained sense of awareness, and thus have not experienced my life "being on the line" due to my gender. And I am as girly as they come.

Fast forward lo these years later, I have only recently learned that I am in the minority. A few weeks ago, I read an article about women not protesting a man's unwanted advances because they were afraid, so they just "let it happen." I reeled back. What on earth were they talking about? The more I read about this issue, the more I realize MANY women have NO idea about their own strength. As if they have the best tools ever, and the damn things are collecting dust in the corner.

Mac said...

The people that truly understand, and are good at violence, love it. This is the survival instinct close to the surface and amped up on joy. Sad, ain't it?

deborahfisher said...

I want to second Dagney's experience. I was conditioned not to feel like my life is on the line, to be aware and look for options, and so it is not. When I read that line of The Gift of Fear, it didn't resonate.

I think what Rory is talking about is a different phenomenon that does resonate with me. When someone attacks me (I am thinking about non-physical attacks here. I have plenty of MA experience but very little fighting experience.) my default setting is to empathize with my attacker--to understand them. This can really help when I stay over my (emotional) feet and think about my empathy as a way to get useful information that minimizes pain for all, including me. But it's a slippery slope--it is easy to focus on this aspect of conflict too much, lose my own (emotional) center of gravity and become victimized.

In the one physical fighting experience I've had (on the mat, an MA experience gone awry), that empathy sensor went off and in some ways that was good because it made me very aware. But I got so caught up in figuring out what I was doing to turn this into a fight (after all, fighting with women is a taboo, my dojo is fairly collegial, I have no rank that would suggest that a fight is appropriate) that I almost got hurt.

JessicaLee said...

When I was younger, always had the perception it was my fault for getting picked on/beat up. Trying to avoid people only got so far, and never thought of fighting back. This perception was confirmed by being told I needed to act/dress differently. Later to realize it came down to self-confidence and fear. Now I find I'm in a small group of people that talk and explore violence, fear, etc. I dare not go beyond that group to talk about these things, for it's taboo. People end up thinking I'd like to be a violent person or worse they think that delving into these matters only increases the chances of being involved with violence.

Excited to see how this will manifests itself.

Tiff said...

I find myself standing on a lot of common ground with the above posts from other women.

Rory, I'd like to see an evolution between your emphasis for women to "slip the leash" and accept the rage as a tool -- and the confidence of a female professional (as you discussed at-length in the author's forum).

I get the feeling there's an untapped power within women that feminism has overlooked -- probably because it does have a lot to do with how we MANAGE (not just "handle") violence.

Rory said...

Expand on that,please.

DagneyTaggert said...

How about finding the intricacies of female power? Bear with me here, I am not talking about bra-burning and man-hating and early 1970's drama. To quote Tiff, where is the untapped power within? The way male aggression is a tapped resource. I believe it's there lurking in the shadows.

Forget about telling the woman at the beginning of her law enforcement/military/fighting career to do/think/act/ like a man, because that's how you get the job done. The assumption here, is that the woman's way is automatically weaker and will simply not work. Why like a man? Why not like a woman?

Do we (society in general) steer young ladies awry by telling to use something they genetically do not have? And are we causing them additional weakness by failing to help them develop the tools they DO possess genetically? Have we turned off the women's power spigot somewhere in time? And why?

Anonymous said...

Rumiko Hayes (wife of Stephen K. Hayes) has some great insights on how being female empowers her ninjutsu.

And if you've ever had the chance to train with her you know what an amazing martial artist she is. Not a lady I would want to accost in a dark alley.

jks9199 said...

Forget about telling the woman at the beginning of her law enforcement/military/fighting career to do/think/act/ like a man, because that's how you get the job done. The assumption here, is that the woman's way is automatically weaker and will simply not work. Why like a man? Why not like a woman?

The whole "act like a man" is the worst advice ever. In fact, I'll expand it to "act like anyone else" is the worst advice for LE work. Act like yourself; you bring your own personal combination of strengths and abilities to the job -- and if you try to act like someone else, you deny some of those strengths. I'm not Rory; if I try to act like Rory, I'm going to fail. He and I can be presented with the same situation -- and may arrive at the same solution. Our route to that solution will be based on our own experience and strengths.

(Yes, I focus on strengths. You can work a lifetime to fix your weaknesses, and you'll never succeed. Or you can work on your strengths until the weaknesses disappear.)

For women in self defense -- the same principle applies. The key is to learn to use their strengths under pressure... Ever try to get between a mother and her child? That same inner energy/emotion/drive that lets a mother heading towards her kid who's in danger do things she'd never do if she was thinking about it can be harnessed in defending yourself... and that's just one example.

Maija said...

I'm not saying there are NO gender differences, but I agree that the individual make up of a person is probably more important in the end. Background, social conditioning, temperament etc.
I work in construction, love action movies with explosions and watching motorcycle racing. Am good at dueling with swords, and shooting. Don't like fishing and suck at golf. I can cook, but don't sew, and have no real interest in babies or children. So on the 'gender scale', where does that leave me? How do my motivations and ways of interacting play in to how I should train/teach/be taught?
Perhaps generalizations are not possible in this world?

Tiff said...

Dagney got closest to what I was getting at, though everyone else has had good posts too. The other budoka in my dojo (all men) often cite the success of a woman in the bujinkan as the attributes of her gender itself.

To clarify, Rory, I was merely wondering if being a female professional (read: operator) goes beyond merely accessing, then channeling, the wrath/rage that you often refer to as one of the more effective self-defense motivators for women. If mastery of being enraged was all it took for woman to be “professional,” it wouldn’t be such a mantel, wouldn’t be so . . . admirable, respectable. In fact, I know plenty of women who “slip the leash” with head-spinning ferocity, and there is nothing professional about them.

Thus my question. Is the use of that rage the path to the power one embodies as a female professional? Or is there something more . . . artistic to it? To put it in “Tiff-speak”: Female operators are like superheroes – surely the source of their superpowers is something other than just beastly (albeit calculated) mania, right?

Clear as mud? Thought so! (LOL)

Terje said...

Good post!

How to work on emotions? My thoughts are a combination of role-playing and therapy /coaching/mentoring.

The hard part is moving around/in these emotions since it will be a kind of holistic emotional approach, and many areas are uncovered(unseen) by ourselves. And the therapist/coach/mentor will have to have very good experinece in staying in that area of suspence and at the same time facilitating people in it.

This might be easy for some women, and very hard for guys (who just might feel that using 2/3 of your practice for this, as not practicing at all).

Hope I'm making sense...

Best Regards

Anonymous said...

Genetailia is rarely a successful indicator of whether someone will dance the spears, IME, or even the "why" of not engaging.

But that's probably just me.


Jake said...


Would totally make a good seminar topic.

I know I'm always doing this, but you and Tony really need to talk. We have a whole section in the PDR program devoted to motivation, psychology, and fear management that sounds like it's in line with the kind of things you're talking about. I'd be interested to hear your reactions to the things and ideas we teach. Maybe next time you're in MA.

pax said...

Would it be possible to do a class/seminar just on the emotional aspects, just on the glitches?

I'd pay to attend that.

~ Kathy

Dan Gambiera said...

Sounds very interesting