Monday, May 23, 2011

More Thoughts From Saturday

Two people playing and talking- large male, small female:
Woman: You're intimidating.  I feel like I can't do anything.
Man: Not true.  You're a much better martial artist than me.  You have more moves, you move better and you're crisper.
Woman: But if you decided to take me out, there's nothing I could do...
Man (dumps her quickly, double leg takedown): Decision stick.

So, first thought:  Gender, size and skill aside, making decisions will always overcome weighing options.  The decision stick is faster than the decision tree.  Moving beats thinking about moving.  Later, the woman described the man as "implacable" which ties in with something E and I were talking about last night.  Skill levels, strength, speed and size are all quantitative differences.  The more you have, the more the odds shift in you favor.

Making decisions is a qualitative difference from weighing options.  Moving and thinking are qualitative differences.  So are fighting and hunting (or social and asocial violence, if you're just catching up on the language.)  Skilled fighters and skilled killers are not at different levels of skill, they aren't even playing the same game.

That was the first thought, not really new, but this is something I keep trying to say in new ways because it seems that this thought brings up a lot of resistance and ego-defense.

The second thought is about gender, and this is something we will hit heavily in the "Logic of Violence" seminar.  There are a limited number of very specific types of violence.  Many of the most dangerous are predatory.  When the people in the class do their self analysis most fit male martial artists (who don't go clubbing, get drunk, go regularly to unfamiliar cultures or have old enemies) are not at risk for much.  What they are at risk for, especially if they do go to places of drunken revelry, is largely social: low stakes and easy to avoid.

The women, on the other hand, are at risk for more things, a wider variety of things and the types of violence with the highest stakes.  No one is going to pick a former bouncer and Muay Thai fighter with a shaved head out of the crowd and decide to lure him to a secluded place for an act of sexual violence and murder.  Victims are chosen for safety.

People forget that their world is not the world.  Men teaching self-defense, even with a lot of real-life experience, sometimes forget how limited their experience is.  If you have thrown a hundred people out of bars, 100% of your experience is with drunk young men challenging with a dominance display.  It is easy to come to believe that your 100% must at least relate to 90% of the world's experience. Surely...

Gender.  Women are attacked differently and for different reasons than men.  They are even intimidated differently.  The average women can be knocked flat with a single blow from a fairly athletic men.  Women know this.  Athletic men teaching self-defense tend, it seems, to forget.  When a guy gets knocked down, we don't like it, but it has happened before-- playing football or rough-housing as kids.

When a woman gets knocked down it is often new, a blatant expression of power she can't match and with an emotional element men rarely grasp.  You knock me down, I'm a guy.  This is now a contest.  The message is, "This is what I've got.  What have you got?"

You knock down a woman, it is a stark affirmation of something she knows: men are powerful.  The message received is not about a contest.  It is about worth and power and inconsequence.

Are the messages true?  Doesn't matter, because they are often received, true or not.  When you are teaching self-defense to women it is not merely a matter of overcoming a 5-to-1 power deficit and a 3-to-1 size deficit as Teja points out.  It also happens in a sometimes crippling psychological milieu.  You can't ignore that.

In sparring and drills, I watch big people ramp back on strength so that they play skill against skill with the other students.  It's very natural, but it's not true.  There is a piece missing.  That piece has to be brought out occasionally and looked at.


Anonymous said...

"It is about worth and power and inconsequence."

I'd add self-doubt. Pain to fear and shame and then, "What did I do wrong," as in, "I must have done something to deserve this."

Anonymous said...

"In sparring and drills, I watch big people ramp back on strength so that they play skill against skill with the other students. It's very natural, but it's not true. There is a piece missing. That piece has to be brought out occasionally and looked at."

Interesting point, and one I've worried from time to time like a dog with a bone. I'm a little bigger than average and a little stronger than most guys my age, and I tend to use it more than I think I should. Sure, if you have a hammer, might as well whack with it, but it seems to me that if you come up against a bigger, stronger guy, that's apt to be a losing tactic if that's the first thing you reach for. Harder to cheat it with muscle if the other guy has more than you.

Better isn't it, to have a skill that doesn't depend primarily on strength or speed? For when those fade, or you bump up against somebody stronger and faster?

That would seem to be the piece you teach somebody smaller and weaker: Skill balances size?

Steve Perry said...

Um, Immediate Anonymous = Perry. Google isn't letting me post, dunno why:

Rory said...

Good point, Steve, but I was actually looking at it from the other side. A person who is weaker and smaller needs to feel the power, to get knocked down and learn to deal. It will open up a whole new level of necessary strategy. When the strong throttle down to work on efficiency it also withholds information/experience. You don't need to get knocked down all the time, but everyone needs a reminder from time to time that getting knocked flat is a natural part of this environment. A really important part if you are training people who fit a victim profile.

Pewari said...

This is a really good post, thank you.

As a petite woman this is something I struggle with constantly. I oscillate (sometimes in the space of minutes!) between getting frustrated if someone takes it easy on me because I'm a girl (otherwise how else am I going to learn?), having almost crippling fear of getting serious injury and a feeling of despair that with all the training in the world I'll never *actually* be able to make this technique work against someone much stronger and bigger than me (which some days feels like every other person in the room!)

I think this post has opened my eyes a little to the psychological baggage underlying the my often very contradictory attitudes to training. Thanks!

Lee Lavi Ramirez said...

Thank you, Rory.
This resonates perfectly.

Wayne said...

"In sparring and drills, I watch big people ramp back on strength so that they play skill against skill with the other students. It's very natural, but it's not true. There is a piece missing. That piece has to be brought out occasionally and looked at."

In class the othe rnight we were doing are traditional set self-defenses used for testing. Unrealistic on several levels, but we do them (and more realistic self-defense too). I'm paired with a lady and place her in a head lock using a firm but not overly tight grip. No choking or hard squeezing but firm enough where she'll have to do the technique correctly for her to break free. She doesn't, makes a comment about me not playing nice (run with that Rory), and it is explained to her what she is doing wrong and then she can break free.

I often see in class what you are describing, from both men and women. You aren't helping the person where as soon as they start a technique, or even just moving, you stop your attack. You don't need to go full on, but giving them some resistance where they have to put some effort into things seems to help build up their confidence.

Joshkie said...

What is the goal?

What are the limiting factors?

Are they real or imaginary?

This and the last post have kind of ran together in my head.

Rory -
Do you think there's an internal drill in that, just stoping, every once in a while, and asking, "What is the goal? Why am I doing this? Is it working?"

You say, "Fight to the goal!" But, how do you deturmine what the gaol should be? Is this to broad a question like ask, "What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?" The onlything I came up with or maybe read in a self help book somewhere is, Goals need to be based in reality and have a reasonable chance of succeeding. So, in determining a reasonable chance you need to look at what might or is causing you to fail.


Joshkie said...

Ps. This also ties into your post about relevant and irrelevant data. Different (Men & Women) points of veiw determine what we will accept as relevant and irrelevant data.


Maija said...

That's one of the great skills of teaching isn't it? Being able to work the whole spectrum of moments where growth is possible - controlled, calm growth to chaotic scary growth. Psychological, physical and creative growth. Growth from extreme disadvantage, dominance, completely out of left field etc etc ....
Even knowing that all these moments exist as possibilities is huge.
Great post.