Monday, February 21, 2011


I've blogged almost nothing this month. Not because it has been one of the times of great balance and contentment, my usual reason for not blogging. This has been busy and there is lots of stuff in my head.

Three seminars so far this month: an introductory one in Granada Hills, California; a two-day in the ice and snow of Rhode Island; and two days in Oakland and Berkley. I'm still recovering from that one, sitting in a cafe in San Francisco's Little Italy with a cannoli and a cappuccino.

Southern California was almost a blur: get in, meet people, play, hike for a day, teach for a day, go home. It was good, and I go to see a few people in person for the second time-- Ed and Toma--and met some happy people and good people and good martial artists and beginners looking to be good and... it was a nice time, made especially nice by Lee and Eli. Eli got called away for the first day, but one evening of talk and I like his heart. He takes care of problem kids and he is the perfect man to do it.

Lee was cool as well, and could take or give the appropriate intensity for any demo or drill. And she said stuff right (if a little understated, I doubt her beginner students can grasp the amount of information that she puts out in a few simple words, e.g. "Keep your hand in front of you.")

Home for a few days and then Rhode Island. Note to self: crossing time zones and a flight that leaves at o-dark-thirty means give yourself time to sleep before the first class. I have this weird feeling I forgot a bunch of stuff. And, BTW, so far RI is the only state where I could find neither statutes nor jury instructions about self-defense on-line.

Norm met me at the airport and had to listen to my sleep-deprived babble (which can get pretty dark) for far too long. He was very patient. Chris Thompson of Ocean State JKD, who set this up, and his collection of dogs put me up, so it was just like being at home. (BTW, Chris, do you have a website for me to link?)

Raffi Derderian kindly lent us his studio for the first day and we got to play with the basics, plus the three long-ass talks, "Context of Self Defense" "Force Law" and "Violence Dynamics". We had some good play and got to know each other a little. And I like Raffi. You throw him a new drill, something he is completely unfamiliar with and not only does he do it right but he manages to look pretty.

Then the fun day at, The Spot Underground. Environmental fighting. Dynamic fighting. Ground brawling. Mass drills. All the things that make fighting so damn fun and complex.

Then scenarios. We had a number of people who had been at previous seminars, especially in Boston and Quincy, MA. For the second time I let people (instructor levels who had been through my scenarios before) sit down and listen to how they are set up. All the safety stuff that goes on behind the scenes. The goals and potential goals. How to become a roleplayer. How to design scenarios. How to direct roleplayers. How to choose a targeted scenario for each student. A tiny taste of how to debrief.

It's not a complete course, nor is it intended to be. My certification in scenario training was extensive and I've figured out a lot of things on my own since then... but giving them a taste of how complex a good scenario is is important. Everyone who has tried a scenario wants to bring it back to their students. Most do it poorly.

The scenarios went well and everyone learned. That's huge with scenarios. When Stabby McShank acts in a way that he couldn't justify to a jury in his wildest dreams, it's not a loss. He finds out something about himself. He has to look at the consequences of reactions and beliefs he (all of us, really) internalized without critical thought. Great day. Especially great because the person who got the roughest scenario was possibly the most nervous, and her victory was explosive.

Debrief (which, in this case was simply hanging out with friends) at a hookah bar with Mike and Tia and Chris and Norm and Kate. Perfect end to a good day.

A few more days at home (but I did wade in the Atlantic Ocean before leaving) and then another early, early flight to SF. Where it turned out there was a Salsa convention going on in my hotel. Those girls party hard. And loudly. Next door. Four of them, I think.

San Francisco is always special. It was the first place that the Plastic Mind exercises felt right to share outside of a small group of students, and those have since caught on. One of the first places I talked about edgewalking and change and where the implications could go outside of some very good friends.

The format of the days was very similar, though every class is different, and for day 2 we once again had the East Bay Rats MC Clubhouse for rolling and brawling. It was a blast, and my ribs are bruised, wrist is tweaked and there will be a new scar on the inside of my mouth. (No one talks about those, I assume everyone gets them. Just curious but isn't everyone's mouth a little network of ridges from getting your mouth slammed into your own teeth?)

The big epiphany in Oakland was for me. It was a combination of playing sword flow drills with Maija and talking with Scott.

I've been struggling with what I am doing and why. Not with the validity or the mechanics, I've been struggling with the labeling and naming.

I suspect there will be more on this later. For some people, at their level, fighting is a physical skill. I give those students tools to improve their efficiency. It's up to them whether they choose to, but the tools are effective.

For some it is an intellectual skill, and these are the ones that need to know all of the context and what combat is really about. They get a huge amount of information.

There are sub-levels between these (this is a model, not a description) and between the next.

ButI'm finding that the people I have met over the last year who resonate with me, the ones I am searching for, the people that I get the most out of teaching are opening up to an emotional/experiential level. Not emotional in the sense of whether you will fight angry or scared or cold. And right here is where the language breaks down. There are a handful of people who are using an entirely different part of their brains to understand violence, and their arts and themselves at a different level. One that is difficult to truly put into words.

I will, of course, keep trying.

Other stuff I need to write about:

More on this emotional level
Perfect example of limbic system behavior between a tourist and a street kid
ConCom went over pretty big with the audience
Flipping the switch and what that means and people who don't know that part of the world

Looks like I'm back to blogging. Anyone want to play in Seattle next weekend?


LifeHacks said...

well, you can post form anywhere that has a computer...

Jake said...

Stabby McShank was worth the price of admission, for entertainment value if nothing else; you know there's something special happening when the facilitator feels like he should be stepping into to help the criminal in the scenario...

Well, the one who started the scenario as a criminal, I guess.

Good times. Look forward to seeing you back on the East Coast at some point.

North Valley Aikikai said...

We loved your presence.
We loved your teaching.
Waiting to Round 2 in October.