Friday, December 31, 2010


Unfocused thoughts right now, about edge-walking and writing.
There are people far more qualified who don't write...and there are much better writers who don't have the experiences to share.

Bob Patterson, (who I haven't met) did a review on "Meditations on Violence" that got him thinking about the four years he worked with inmates- be sure to see the posts that follow the one linked. It all reads familiar. He describes it quite well. But he hated it and I loved it. His strategies and tactics sound very close to the way that I handled things... but for some reason I found the situations energizing. I loved being the good guy. I loved being relatively undamaged and able to walk in a sewer and stay clean.

E postulates that there is a subspecies who don't react to adrenaline and serotonin normally, people who heal faster and have denser bones and muscles than others and looser joints... maybe. I don't think I was born a meat-eater. I think it was an attitude that I learned to survive a very specific situation.

Nature/nurture, again. I usually fall heavily on the side of nurture for that one. Not because it is right or wrong, but because it is useful. Human adaptability is probably our most 'nature' aspect. If you need to do something to prevail or survive, you'll do it given half a chance. And like most organisms, humans are essentially lazy. The problem with 'nature' as a primary source of anything (that skills or personality or talents are inborn) is that our adaptable, lazy nature immediately sees the excuse value in that,

"I can be a jerk, it's just my nature." "I'm not really a slob, it's just my nature." On and on.
But force someone to respond as if everything was a choice and suddenly they make better choices. Not a lot of aggressive jerks at a firing range. Not a lot of slobs in Boot Camp.

As I said, unfocussed thoughts.
The year ends. It's just a number. The days keep coming.
Four events set up for February:
Granada Hills CA Feb 5th
Two day event in Providence RI Feb 12-13
Tentative San Francisco 2-day plus Conflict Communications Feb 19-20
Invited to be at a SD group teach in Seattle sponsored by John Darby February 26

Considering putting the blog entries in chronological order, cleaning up the grammar and adding a little content (like a few of my actual journal entries for some of the events) and creating an e-book for each year so far.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Subtle Distinction

It always bothers me when people say, "There are no rules in a street fight."

That's just ignorance. Of course there are rules. At the very minimum, there are laws. If you don't act (and train) with respect to the laws there can be some pretty dire consequences. Unless you like community showers, no privacy and spending time in large crowds of people who are generally either asocial or antisocial.

That's without including the local taboos.

Oh, yeah, there are rules in a street fight.

But there is no such thing as cheating. That's a subtle distinction.

Rules and cheating are social ideas, things designed to keep you at a very specific level of interaction. If you cheat as a child playing games, you won't have any friends. You cheat at a card game and you may lose more than friends, depending on the culture. You might get knifed or you might get voted out of the country club.

Rules keep everything hunky dory in the tribe. The big rules are physics, the big social rules are laws. The rest are just agreements and expectations. Most unwritten, most things we just do, subconsciously, because we have always seen them done. Alternatives don't occur to us. We could just move our little Monopoly doggy to 'Go' every time, regardless of what the dice say. But we don't. That would be cheating. And no one told us that. That is what we, as socialized individuals, bring to the table.

There is no such thing as cheating when you are under attack. You're a good person. You don't cheat. And so you hesitate, not doing things you know would work because you aren't sure if you will violate social taboos. If it's going to violence, guess what? The social taboos have already been pretty much nullified. There are rules in a fight. Please don't go to prison. But there aren't a lot of rules unless you bring them in your own head. If you do, the rules in your head only apply to you.

There is nothing you can do under assault that will make the other kids say, "I don't want to play with you any more! You're a big cheater!"

And you know what? If their idea of play involves a criminal assault, I'm okay with it if they don't want to play with me anymore.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not Bad

Just signed the contract for "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force."  I'm sure the title won't survive, but there it is.  
Wrote another section for the collaboration with Lawrence this morning.  That project should be ready to go in a month.  
Waiting to hear back from a couple of first readers on the drills manual, then that should be e-bookable shortly, with a possible expanded print version afterwards.  Might even give me the incentive to shoot some video.
The Christmas music finally stopped.  I think.  I'm a little afraid to go into town and find out.  I can just listen to the blues at home and sip coffee.
Rain in grey sheets outside.
My right side hardly hurts at all.
Quiet, empty house.
Not a bad day at all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Missing and Action

Read something today that hit me as wrong on a very visceral level. I'm trying to turn that automatic revulsion into something useable.

Many self-defense books are technique heavy, and technique is one of the least important things in a real encounter. Specific techniques fit in a specific space and time, and space and time are some of the things that get really screwed up. That's why, on top of technique being a poor basis for even a decent self-defense read, strategies based on sparring timing just don't work.

The space, the time and the positions are not the same.

Take a striker, a karateka who knows how to hit hard and has the skill to toy with an opponent. Let's make him a full-contact specialist. What does he or she need for self defense?

Maybe some advice on how to use that power, (and targeting, for that matter,) when the threat is behind or to the flank. Maybe with your head twisted back and up. That's common spacing and positioning. Add common timing and you have to act before you can accurately see anything or evaluate the threat. The bad guy gets surprise and compromises your structure and takes up space. He's the bad guy. If he can't do this, he's probably not ambushing you and your resonse probably isn't self-defense.

If you see an attack coming well enough that you can parry and use a strike to set up a finisher... it's probably not justified self-defense. You could have probably used that distance and those smarts to just get the hell out of there.

Yeah. So what should a self-defense book be about?
Maybe how and where to strike when off balance and bound up. Maybe even how to use your own off-balancing. Strikes that work. Not dojo folklore about what twelve pounds of pressure will do or what part of the skull is thin. Show me ten people (hell, show me one) who hit that point and got the other guy good and concussed. If something is supposed to be, according to some old scroll, potentially lethal find an example. Especially if it is someplace I've been hit an awful lot. Does it bother anyone that something I've been doing for fun for twenty years is being taught as potentially lethal and too dangerous to practice?

It goes throughout self defense. Fundamentals are important but the real skill in self-defense shooting is getting your weapon into play with no time or space and preferably without shooting your off hand. Then working the action because it will almost certainly jam that close. What I learned on the range AND what I learned as a tactical shooter are not the same skills a self-defense shooter needs. With very few exceptions, if a civilian uses my skills, they are the bad guy.

Sorry, I'm frustrated. As Irene once said, "What most self-defense instructors miss is the point."

I'll be better when the christmas music stops.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brittle Plasticity

There are some drills that everyone should do but no one should do too often. The kind of boxing that teaches the most eventually leads to permanent brain damage. There are some of the drills where you challenge social conventions, which is very important when it is necessary. People who challenge social conventions constantly, just to feel special, are assholes. Some of the drills only have a valuable lesson the first time. I have a variety of exercises to see if the students are fighting to the goal. If you repeat the same drill, the students will do the right thing, but maybe not because they understand the concept. Maybe just because they remember the answer.

The ability to fight to the goal is based on the student's ability to correctly identify the goal in the moment. Once they have been told what they should have done, they may learn something but many do not get any closer to learning to choose for themselves.

The plastic mind exercises are the same thing. There are variations of them, three 'stages' that I use (though Edwin insists on three-and-a-half). The purpose is to introduce the student to the reality that the self is malleable. That a relatively small shift in attitude or point-of-view can profoundly impact how the student moves, thinks and feels. Sometimes doing more to improve fighting efficiency in a two minute game than the student will get in a year of physical drills.

We know the mind is that important in fighting. Ask any cop whether he would rather fight a 200 pound black belt who was afraid of getting hurt or an untrained 110 pound housewife who didn't care if she got hurt as long as she hurt you.

We also know the mind is malleable. Sleep deprivation, dehydration, protein, blood sugar can all profoundly affect how we think and act. So can the first cup of coffee, or even a good or bad pep talk. We know this, but our little monkey mind feels all of reality shift into terrifying gray at the thought that "I am not who I think I am, the center of my reality, myself, is not stable."

If the thing that senses the world is variable, then the world itself must be terrifying chaos...

Yadda yadda yadda. We know we change. If we think about it for a minute, we start to realize how small whatever stable core there is might be (the old koan of how much can be taken away and still have you be you.)

Working with this change is powerful. Consciously controlling it. Not just finding the motivations that let you slip the leash-- you can actually practice what you will become when that happens. Many martial artists have played with their bodies, pushing limits of strength and flexibility. Then they play at another level, soft or structured and find new concepts of flexibility and entirely new ways to be strong. Right there, they are on the edge of playing with their minds as well... but I can't think of any that expressly take it into that territory.

Even knowing that fighting is more mental than physical.
Even espousing the critical role of mindset.

I can be a bastard, I can be a saint. I can be happy or sad. All as choices, simple choices. And I can be a trout. Or the wind. Each of those choices will change how I move, how I relate to the people around me, friend or threat. How I think and how I feel.

The danger is that something that can be expressly designed to help teach a form of flexibility can quickly become a thing of right and wrong. I tell you to fight like fire, it should be the archetype of fire in your brain, not mine. There are a hundred ways to differ from my archetype, but there is no way to do it wrong. But the minute it enters your head, whether from your insecurity or a bad teacher's words that there is a right and wrong way, what was meant to be flexible becomes rigid. An exercise meant for you to discover and delight in your own plasticity, becomes another brittle breaking point, potentially.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Inherent Conservativism of Combat

If conservativism is a word, which my spell-checker doubts.
Years ago, a guy (who had some dumb ideas anyway), was complaining about how hard it was to 'break into the police market' and how they didn't want to try anything new.

I tried to explain and it didn't go over very well, but here it is: when your life is on the line you want to do something that works. Not something that might work, something that will work. There is no such perfectly reliable thing, so the default is to do what worked last time.

Aside number one: This can be dangerous too, as pointed out in "Deep Survival:" well trained people some times die when they either don't recognize or refuse to acknowledge that the plan is failing.

Your hindbrain is wired that way, and so we get behavioral looping freezes and the ritualistic behavior that Konrad Lorenz showed in his early research in ethology. It almost perfectly mirrors the development of certain tics, behaviors and superstitions in humans.

This makes any change hard. Change coming from a theorist is far easier to dismiss than change coming from a fellow edge-walker, but both still tend to get dismissed.

Another aside (I feel a lot of them coming on today): Mike M was telling a story about WWII commandos who were taught the kidney thrust for sentry removal--just as many of us were-- and told it would put the enemy into shock so quickly that he wouldn't be able to scream. Mike said that after the operation, all of the sentries were found with their throats cut. The soldiers had not been able to kidney thrust. "It was too sexual." Errrrm, I'm gonna call bullshit on that one. There was a lot of Freud in the air back then. Try this: You're a hardened soldier. You get some outsider, probably an egghead, telling you to try this new thing because it hurts too bad to scream. Really? Hurts too bad to scream? And you want me to bet all of our lives on that? Maybe we'll stick with what we know...

The conservatism is compounded when it seems to attack someone's martial identity. The hindbrain (survival) and the midbrain (emotional/tribal) both coming together out of fear of change? That's gonna be brutal.

This is coming up for me now, and I find myself on the conservative side. Let me tell you the story...
Early in my CERT career, I was teaching an entry (irimi) as a counter-assault technique. It was something that I flinched to once when a boxer tried to take me out and I worked on it from there. It's pretty similar to Tony Blauer's Spear if you want a visual. One of the enforcement officers casually mentioned that he wished there was a way to get the same effect and keep a hand on his gun. I'd already noticed that some people flinch differently than I do (my flinch works great for the wedge) and had once used a technique when Stan tried to get me with a surprise chain-punch series...

So the Dracula's Cape counter assault was born. Turns out it's not new, the physical motions are in a couple of Okinawan kata. While I was still working out the efficiencies, one of our enforcement officers asked what I was doing. I told him. He practiced it once or twice. He was attacked the next day and flinched to the position, knocking out the threat. Two reps of practice. Knockout. Surprise conditions. Yeah, that goes in the 'A' technique box.

Got a message a few days ago that one of the seminar students, a very petite lady, used Dracula's Cape to take out a bad guy. One move, laid the guy out. 'A' technique for sure...

Edwin and I have been thinking about some inherent problems with both of my counter-assault irimis. They are straight up the middle. They leave a smaller person in a potentially vulnerable position. Sure, so far every time the bad guy has been too injured to take advantage, but what if, what if...

The ideal would be an 'outside entry' something that leaves the good guy (or girl) in the dead zone on the threat's flank. That's easy to do when you know which side the threat will attack with. Without that knowledge, it backfires a certain percentage of the time. Anything that requires cognition is too slow to be used as a counter-assault flinch. Off-lining will never do the damage of center-lining...

But I think I've figured something out, something that puts you in the dead zone; does only a little damage immediately but sets up a shitload more (but you can't easily condition a complex reflex) and still works regardless of left or right, high or low, strike or kick, circular or straight attack.

But it hasn't been tested. I'm no longer in a position where I can be confidant that I'll test it in the field sometime soon. If it fails, the price is high. We already have something that works and has worked spectacularly (ooooooh, but what if all of those cases were luck, what if, what if...)

Would this be an innovation? Or the first steps on the path of making shit up without knowing if it will work? I knew the answer when I was betting my own life on it. In a seminar setting, this would be betting someone else's life, some one who likely has no base for judging.

All this seems to go on subconsciously in other people. I get stuck thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Many things are kind of coming together right now. Not some big life change, just lots of little pieces and insights and conversations that all seem to be gelling in one general direction: teaching methodology and tribalism and the hows and whys of stuff.

It was a long plow, but I finally finished reading Robert Humphrey's "Values for a New Millennium." I have quibbles, and the ConCom stuff Marc and I are working on puts a huge amount of it into a clearer context... but it is, as Gwenn pointed out, not a fairy tale, but an ethical system that makes sense and may underpin all other ethical systems.

Within that, there is the problem that what underlies all other ethical systems would make sense. What Humphrey wrote makes sense...and there is no identity value in common sense. No tribe says, "We are special because we gather water" they define their culture and identity by what they gather water with.

Within martial arts and self-defense, knocking people down is common sense, but how you looked when you knocked the bad guy down defines the system. Effectiveness is the goal. In my opinion effectiveness is the only thing that matters... but the hoops you get through to achieve effectiveness are the identity, the system. And it doesn't take very long for the hoops to matter even if they no longer get you effective. Identity, especially in things that will never be tested, seems to be the bigger power.

And so, when he got a chance to apply his observations to the educational system, Humphrey's sons had spectacular success with students who "couldn't be reached". And spectacular success did not matter a whit when it came to renewal and approval... because if your identity is tied with a dismal system, spectacular success is change, and the human brain is wired to resist any change to the tribe, even if the tribe is imaginary.

ConCom explains why success will inevitably cause a negative reaction...but will that help navigate and change the fact? Or will it only give us the comfort of knowing 'why' when the ship starts to sink?

Non-teaching becomes described as 'deep teaching.' Or people who trick and confuse and lie to their students until the student rejects them and goes on their own are extolled as 'coyote teachers.' People are told they are taught to be tough and strong while simultaneously being required to bow and call 200 pounds of ego in a fifty pound sack "master."

How many have ever sat back, with the entire system or even individual techniques and just really examined what they are learning and why? Soul-searched to find their personal original purpose in starting on the path and checked to see if the path still serves the purpose? Picked out the things that simply don't work (and yes, there are some things that you will be told or believe that you must do wrong now to know how to do right later... does that even make sense, really? Can anyone name one of those things that couldn't have been taught the right way from day one?)

Have you ever had to unlearn things as you progressed?

Somewhere in this mix, there is the matrix of all the things that make learning less efficient than it has to be.

Here's a paradigm for you: In every martial art I respect, one of the goals is to move as efficiently as possible. The ideal is 'no wasted movement'.

Where is the striving for no wasted movement in teaching? No wasted time, no wasted words. No disposable concepts. Just efficient teaching.

And maybe I'm starting at the wrong end. Maybe there has to be an art of learning developed first.

(Lots of thanks to one of the long-time readers for getting me thinking in this direction today. I didn't want to bring her into this without her permission, since some of these posts that get a little to close to identity issues get inconsiderate...but I'm grateful.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Insights and News

Last of three days playing with a new friend.  Mostly mental, because that's where most of the holes for most trained people are, but some of the physical building blocks as well.  Not a lot of sweat, but a little brain twisting.

Young Nick made a connection today and I want to run with it.

I love martial arts and train in the most traditional of the traditional, but at the same time I am acutely aware of some of the holes.  The things that bother me most are rarely in the systems.  You may not like kata, but I often see things in kata that are ten times as good for nasty shit as the sparring.  And normally, the instructors neither know or understand what it is I see.  Then, instead of acknowledging they don't know, which is the first step of learning, they guess.

When you guess, you are guessing and uncertain.  When your instructor teaches his guess, it becomes fact and an article of faith.  My beef with traditional martial arts is rarely with the techniques, but with the training methods.  Sometimes it seems like a committee was assembled to come up with the worst possible way to teach combat survival and that became the martial arts.

The side effects of this can be obvious and pernicious or subtle and pernicious.  From the instructor who drags the edge of  a knife across his own throat with every disarm to the students that swear their instructor hits without moving, when everyone not trained (or brainwashed) in that school can clearly see him move. (My favorite response, when I asked about this on a forum years ago (as best I remember it): "Skilled internal artists do not use the word 'movement' the way ordinary people do.")  He may simply not have been moving by internal definition, I guess.

The most compelling evidence, in my experience, is being told by one instructor (who insisted on being called a master) that a particular skill would take at minimum a decade to understand... and having another instructor teach it in about thirty minutes.  If you can't teach simple things quickly (and lots of these deep secrets are just super-simple and super-refined body mechanics) I have to assume that you don't actually know what you are doing.  You might be able to do it.  You may be able to lead people in the general direction of the same skill.  But that doesn't mean you know what you do.

After talks about this and martial politics, Nick referred to the difference between mission-oriented and longevity-oriented groups.  Bingo.

This stuff arose in harsh times, and generally were founded by survivors and driven and improved by survivors and people who wanted to be survivors.  Teaching theory was, what?  Memorize stories and motions?  The amount of information available to any specific individual was limited to personal experience and the stories of friends and relatives.

You knocked the bad guy flat and took his sword and stuck it in his neck?  Cool!  How did you do it?

There is a qualitative change when things become systems.  They become tribal identities.  In that instant, the power shifts from the survivors (and those who want to be) to those who want to preserve the system.  A cabal or individual suddenly decides whether a tactic is right or wrong.  Whether it has worked is irrelevant.  People who have spent years in a system are considered more knowledgeable than people who have used the system.  Assigned rank trumps scars...

Maybe not.  Maybe I'm just looking for something to explain how delusional people can be, how fiercely they can defend their ignorance.  The longevity-oriented model explains it well... but a model is not necessarily reality.
David called today.  YMAA wants to publish the "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force".  Whoo frigging hooo.  Parts of the book are pretty personal and I've been really worried about how civilians would read it, but David is an excellent judge and he liked it.

Also he said that in principal, he's cool with me publishing the drill manual as an e-book and then doing an expanded and illustrated version for YMAA.  So the basics can be out in a month or two and the good stuff in print in a year or two.  Best of all available worlds.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I know that in the big things, "Why?" is a bullshit question.  There are no real answers and so there never was a real question.  It's whistling in the dark or a child crying for mommy.  If we only knew 'why' if we could find the reasons and meaning behind the universe...

It's not enough for it to make sense, either.  There is actually a lot of sense in understanding that 'shit happens' is enough why for the universe.  We want it to make sense to us, to have this giant, cold, mostly empty universe have laws that somehow reinforce our little meat animal ideas of good and justice.

So a good man dies-- not just a good man, a kind man.  Intelligent.  Well trained.  Wife and daughter.  Someone I really admired and was looking forward to seeing as he aged and grew and became... I was really looking forward to learning what he would discover in the world.

And I want the why.  Even knowing it is a bullshit question.  There were older, weaker, meaner people.  People without a new baby daughter.  Some people who have done heinous things.  People who never have been anything but a drag on others.  They are still walking around, wasting air, making lives miserable...

Why a good man?  Why not...

That childish desire, to make the world be the way that I wish it, still bubbles up.

Not reveling today in the world as it is.

RIP brother.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Dlshad tasted clam chowder for the first time yesterday, touched the ocean and had a generally great time. The Oregon Coast cooperated with fairly clear skies, a brisk wind and warm sun. Rocky coasts, mighty trees... it was all new and alien and beautiful to a city boy from the Iraqi desert mountains. A good time was had buy all.

Working on a web site update that should include a calendar. February will include LA and Rhode Island, confirmed and Minnesota for a week in late summer. Shooting for New England in August because evidently I have a thing for high humidity. Most dates tend to be a little squishy until things get locked in. I'm sure that's not the case with people who have been doing it for awhile and have a system.

Possible signing at the Powell's Beaverton store in May, facilitated by Mr. Perry...and possibly team-teaching another Savvy Authors class with the same. Which would be great fun, I think.

The current class at SA has a very different feel than the last. Lots fewer questions this time. I suspect it is because the subject (Police policy on using force) is integrated and arcane enough that people feel like they have to go through most of the material before they understand enough to ask a good question. That's pretty true, so the answer is to accelerate the class so that there will be more time to poke at things after the data dump.

Doing a series of articles for Concealed Carry Magazine. The first just arrived. They added some pretty good pictures.

"Violence, A Writer's Guide" is now available from Amazon on Kindle. Just got it up. Theoretically it is also at the Apple I-Book store, but uploading it there was so messy and convoluted I neither know nor really care if it was successful. Muy loot. Kurdish for "Nose hair" the colloquial term for a pain in the ass.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Training In Versus Training For

Sometimes there are profoundly deep misunderstandings when people talk. We assume that when we do similar things, we probably do them for similar reasons, and that’s just not true.

200 years ago, drill and ceremony (marching in formation) was one of the most critical skills on the battlefield. Maybe not for individual survival but for expanding a general’s span of control so that he could give orders and expect them to be carried out. Good drill training won wars, and winning saved lives.

Now that it is suicidal, and has been for over a hundred years, it is still practiced. I would jettison it as no longer applicable and training in things that don’t work is wasted time. But others are not training to defeat an enemy. They are training to be (or create) soldiers. And soldiers know how to march.

Training in a martial art is not the same thing as training for violence. Not at all, and this for years has been one of my blindspots. I had assumed that in the end everyone was training for the dark day when they may have to use the skills. From that point of view much of the training was counter-productive. Some was senseless. Some things were jettisoned that worked in real life but not in play and some things were incorporated that worked in play but not in real life.

And almost all of these deficits could be vastly improved with just a touch of good old-fashioned goals-backward thinking. Study the problem, decide what you are training for and then you can much better evaluate what you are doing in training. Is that attack so patently stupid that you would never do it? Then a crook wouldn’t either. So why practice a defense.

A little forethought and you can really streamline both your training and your personal style.

But… and here is where my blindspot hit. A friend, someone I respect very much as a man and a martial artist pointed out that there are insights you get from dedicated training, things that ‘click’ five or ten years into training.

I agree completely, but (and I was thinking about something/somebody specific) sometimes you get incredible insight into becoming more efficient at things that don’t work. Thinks that have no tactical application.

And that was my blindspot. US Marshal Jones said that in order for a technique to be valid it must have three elements. The list now has four, so I must have added one and I’m not sure which it was:

· Anything you teach must have a tactical use. Reholstering quickly doesn’t have a tactical use. Outside of handcuffing, breaking a turtle (the judo guys know what I mean) not only has no self-defense use but there’s no way to do it without being the bad guy, legally.

· It must work moving or standing still. If you can’t hit hard when both you and the threat are moving, you can’t hit hard. If you can’t put a bullet on target on a moving target while you, yourself are moving, for all tactical purposes you can’t shoot.

· It must work whether you can see or not (and this is likely the one I added, because JJ is primarily a shooter and there are lots of shooting skills that rely on sight… but at the same time he insisted that everything except target acquisition be done by touch.)

· The technique must work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn’t work.

These are classic, and I apply them to my training…but I am training for things. For very specific things. Not just one thing, either. Getting out of a place alive when things go to shit is a different skill than handcuffing. It’s also a different problem armed than it is unarmed. But the skills and training always serve the goals.

This is also probably the crux of the identity problem (not feeling like a martial artist any more) and the ‘martial arts can’t be a way of life’ sentiment.

I’m training for things. I’m no longer training in martial arts. Martial artists do study ‘the problem’ but the problem is not surviving a dark day, the problem is becoming a better martial artist. It can look self-referencing to me, artificial, a little like navel gazing… but it is just as valid as what I do, and probably more satisfying for more people. Without the dark days, all of my time might feel wasted. I wouldn’t necessarily know what was a waste of time. The navel-gazing I see in serious martial artists might well transmute into the fantasy life that is rampant in the RBSD crowd.

There but for luck go I.

Friday, December 03, 2010

One of the Mental Drills

It has been a busy week. Dlshad, my translator from Kurdistan is settling in nicely and making plans for his future. Lots of work on the house. Usual holiday hellishness (I'm not much of a people person at the best of times. Add obligations, consumerism and christmas music and I'm about ready to go into the woods.)

Finished Nano by adding a bunch of unnecessary fluff to the book, then cut the crap out. Need to do a rewrite, have a few friends look at it and tell me which parts suck and then it will be ready for whatever the future holds.

Here's a short excerpt:

WW5 Counting Coup

Counting coup was a Plains Indian tradition. Either through stalking or in battle, young men would show their courage by touching an enemy. It had all the skill of combat with none of the bodycount. This version is a form of urban stalking and you will find that threats, especially young men (aka delinquents) play it all the time. It shows all the skill of mugging but without the legal consequences.

The idea is to get to ideal range on a target, either without the target being aware or with the target fully aware but doing nothing about it.

Public places, especially crowded ones are easy. You pick a target and drift or stalk over to within range. Without a crowd it is far more difficult, and thus more challenging. If you are ready, see how long you can stay undetected in the striking range.

Counting coup on a fully aware target is more a psychological game than a physical one. It has dangerous psychic elements in it that need to be addressed as a safety issue.

To deliberately close into someone’s personal space with their knowledge but without permission is an insult. It is a punking. In some places and subcultures if you misjudge you will have to be ready to defend yourself and it will not be self-defense because you started it.

More importantly, if someone has a weak ego and is looking for validation, punking people can be addictive. I’ve said don’t practice losing and don’t practice missing, because you will do it under stress. Now I’m saying “Don’t practice being an asshole, because you will become one.” And not just under stress, either.

You should do it once or twice, partially to notice your own internal resistance to breaking such a cultural taboo and also so that you notice how few people set boundaries in any way. They expect you to respond to the taboo.

See how that works in an assault? Breaking a social taboo indicates that most social controls are off the table…and yet we expect the social controls to kick in any second. Don’t count on it.

Another layer, common among criminals who don’t have an immediate need for anything but want to stay in practice is forcing. Forcing is used here the way a magician uses it. There is no coercion or violence or threats. You pick a card and the card you pick was chosen for you long ago, you were, without being aware of it, forced to choose a preordained card.

In counting coup, forcing is when you do not approach the target but set things up so that the target approaches you. Look at young men standing too close to a concession stand or slightly crowding an aisle, forcing people, particularly young women, to brush as they pass. Contact. Counting coup.

There are multiple values in this drill. The stalking practice not only lets you move and think as a predator, but the blending will help keep you off the predator’s radar. You find something of your social conditioning. Most importantly, you will see how important social conditioning is to how predator’s work.

Victims are good people. They don’t want to draw attention or make scenes. So they don’t set boundaries and they do put themselves in vulnerable positions.