Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Math

The math thing. Remember that any model is a model, a way of explaining the world and no more. It is not the world. No model is "truth" whatever truth may be. But many models are useful (and, in my experience, useful can be measured by how well the model predicts the future.)

You can represent the problem with knives as math.  One of the cool things about knives (for math purposes) is that they operate so much like hands.  Baseball bat swings have huge dead zones, but a knife doesn't require any more of a swing that a bare hand.  For that matter, it can do more damage with less speed and distance.

So, for our model, a knife is functionally a hand, but say, increases the effectiveness of a threat's attack by 'sixty'.  Part of that imaginary number is damage/lethality, and part is the way people tend to choke when they see something shiny and sharp rising towards their belly.

So, in our completely imaginary, numbers-pulled-out-of-the-ass mathematical model, we have two people with combative chances of o-100.  Hand one a knife and the balance becomes 0-100 on the unarmed side, 60-160 on the weapon side.  Mean is 50:110, for what it's worth.  All other things being equal, the knife is a huge advantage.

There are other things making that initial score of 1-100.  Size, strength, speed, ferocity... it seems like a some of the dynamics on defending against a knife involve trying to amp one of these.  For that matter, a lot of self-defense: "Your natural ferocity is about a 12 out of 100, like most nice, civilized people.  Let's ramp that up to 80 and you will be a far more effective fighter."

That rise from twelve to eighty is huge... but if the threat started at ninety you have only begun to level the playing field.  It's a big gain in an area where it is easy to make big gains.  Lots of skilled martial artists are shitty fighters.  Teaching them to slip the leash is huge.  But that doesn't mean that the threat started at a twelve, and if you are slipping the leash for the first time and he's been doing it for awhile... it's an increase, but it's still a far cry from an edge.

Hmmmm.... and willingness to use a knife (an up-close, messy and personal weapon) usually indicates that the threat has already pretty much maxed the 'ferocity' and 'disdain for human life' attributes.

Controlling the weapon arm is an attempt to neutralize the knife's sixty percent advantage, but it does so at a cost.  If you don't know how to control a limb without hands, it often ties up two of yours.  Do you lose forty or more points of your own effectiveness?  If you went into any other type of fight and decided that you would use both of your hands to keep a death grip on one of the other guy's hands... how do you think that would work out?

The thing with a knife, not just in skilled hands but in any except spectacularly stupid and brain-washed hands, is that the sixty-point advantage doesn't come at any cost anywhere else.  Swinging a club involves a vulnerability in geometry and another one in momentum.  The only cost to a knife is that you can't grip with that hand, and sticking a piece of steel through flesh and under a bone can do almost everything a grip can do.

*Over-reaching generalization alert*
It seems that lots of the RBSD out there focuses on increasing one or more attributes (aggressiveness, ferocity, strength, speed) to give one an edge.  I dunno. There are very few attributes you can increase that the threat can't increase as well.  

Traditional martial arts *over-reaching generalization alert still in effect*  tends to focus on precision and technique, which I've found are pretty unreliable in your first few encounters until you get used to what is going on.  But sometimes it works.  The cool thing is that you can work on efficiency for a long time, but there are genetic limits to most attributes. But... there is nothing in here inherently that says the threat hasn't spent more time on his technique than you have... and he damn sure has more experience with good guys than you have with bad guys.

My focus tends to be on changing the game.  Not because a crook can't be better at it than I am.  Aside from prevention, I find the big gains in in messing with minds, because far more people have practiced or trained with their bodies and weapons than have even considered playing with their own minds.

It's maybe only a few points, but it doesn't cost anything and fewer threats are prepared for it.

I'm tired, and very soon I will be tired of doing serious posts and having the posts (or parts of them) taken seriously. There was a rule I used to teach rookies: You can take yourself seriously or the job seriously, but never both at the same time.

Life is cool and complex. If you aren't laughing at something, you're probably missing the point. Plus being serious all the time isn't good for you. Ulcers and such.


Josh Leeger said...

great post rory

Flinthart said...

"My focus tends to be on changing the game. "

For me, that's pretty much the essence of defense-oriented ju-jitsu. And it comes straight out of Sun Tzu as well. There's a great deal of depth in that single, short sentence.

Joshkie said...

Thanks Rory.


Scott said...

Dude, and that in a nut shell is why I train martial arts.
The ability to recognize the game being played, and the ability to change the game to produce a positive, novel, or inspiring outcome is what ties conceptual art, performance anthropology, horror movies, history, and martial arts together.

Joshkie said...

I know I take a lot of space up on the blog. I hope I don't intimidate or make others feel like they can't comment themselves.

For me what you put out makes sense, and for me that's my defining criteria of weather to listen or believe what someone puts out there. Because, for me, I understand it's my responsibility to fit things into my world view, or decide if my world view still holds true.

If something doesn't make sense to me I have two questions I ask myself. One, am I missing something, or two, is it they really don't know what they're talking about. But that's on me to answer those question, and figure out what works for me.

I got to, we all need to, do the math ourselves.


Joshkie said...

Ps. Was that to serious a comment?


Wayne said...

Good post, and messing with the mind is something people don't think about. I never really did till I started reading your material so I thank you for that.

One thing that always struck me about someone with a knife, and you touched on it here, is if the person had a choice weapons to knowingly hurt someone with and they picked a knife, that isn't a good sign.

Go watch some goofball comedy. Airplane, Caddyshack, whatever gives you a laugh.

Maija said...

Nice :-)

Joshkie said...

Rory I would like to do a call back to the guest post by Billy G from back in November 2010. I think it really ties in well with this post.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to think I "get it" but don't always have confidence I do. Naturally being a critical thinker has its downside.

These posts and commens are fantastic appetizers. Words, even difficult to assemble and organize at times, tend to be limited to the precurser. Point of action is where learning happens. So, when talking in abstract starts to make sense you have maybe walked out too far and need to get back to what is real.

In the end everything said and written is a recording, and by definition is out of context upon receipt. That's where the work starts if your paying attention andhave the energy.

-Billy G.

Joshkie said...

Billy -

To me it's the quest/questions that matter not the destination/answers.

I'm at the point that I'm just enjoying the path, quest and journey. I've come to the realization that I'm never going to get to the 'destination' so I might as well enjoy the scenery.

I like revisit what I've written and read because they are a marker on the path and give context to where I'm at. They say that was who I was then and shows me who I am now.


P.s. I can't seem to get my mind to stop asking questions, so I might as well give it something to do.

AF1 said...

"If you went into any other type of fight and decided that you would use both of your hands to keep a death grip on one of the other guy's hands... how do you think that would work out?"

If the death grip is a Russian 2-on-1 tie up from Greco-Roman wrestling it works out well most of the time.

Assuming that the user has put in the training time and knows what he's doing, of course.

shugyosha said...

Objection, your Honor:

It's not only a few points, nor is it costless. It costs a change in POV, ego... personal story. Call as you will, you have better words for that, but costless? Not for most people.

Take care.

Jake said...

Cool stuff. Nothing much to add beyond that.

Hope to see you in a couple of weeks. Conversation is not even required to be serious.

kenpokiwi said...

Epiphany! One word, Ferocity, explains so much to me. Whether its controlled or un-controlled isn't the point so much, it's just its presence in the fight. One stupid act put me into the California Youth Corrections System back in the 70's. Between running and fighting, I wound up in Youth Authority first at F.C. Nellis, then Paso Roblas, finally YTS. As the skinny white kid, I was always a target. The one thing that saved me (earned respect) more often than not was that I could go to a place in a fight that most didn't. When I went there, it was very ugly and violent. Interestingly though, when I didn't (or couldn't), I usually got my ass kicked. Even today, after over 30 years in the martial arts, I know the beast is still in me. My question, do you believe one is born with the capability of ferocity or can it be taught or developed? Years ago while going through Navy EOD, our dive class started out with 27 students. At the end of the 5th week officially known as Problem Solving, but to the students it was Hell Week, we were down to 16. There, graduating was attributed to Mental Toughness. Do you believe MT is a component of Ferocity, vice versa, or two separate attributes?
I don't know about you Rory, but to me, this is fun stuff!

Rob Wilson said...

Well written. I just finished reading "Meditations on Violence". Thank you for affirming my philosphies. I've been training in Martial Arts for thirty years, but having had guns pressed to my head along with growing up in inner city Philly provided a bit of clarity. I appreciate your writing and experience.

Anonymous said...

I like you take Josh. That's it for me as well... but the journey for me is in part, the problem solving itself.

Figuring out how stuff works and understanding it from the inside out. Disproving pretension and mystiqe. There is nothing new under the sun. And, magic is just what we call something we haven't attempted to understand ourselves. So, its not having to know the answers themselves. Its the process of learning and fitting that new knowledge into what I know already that I get hooked on. Identifying common denominators with what you already have conviction of makes everything new so much easier to comprehend.

Can't not comment on mental toughness. Mindset is such a cool subject. Nature or nuture... its got to be a combination. Unwavering commitment to the purpose in the moment. Refusal to be denied. That's a nice definition of "fighting." It comes form somewhere, but still working on understanding that one myself. When you get right down to it, people are pretty complicated and weird progressions.

And, my own guess is that even a very long lifetime is maybe not at all long enough to be totally in controll of that progression. Even under the best of circumsances, each day is but a fleeting chance to outrun yesterday's programming. Thus, action with purpose in any given moment becomes the most we can do, cutting the path. I suppose that is much of what is meant by following your Way.

-Billy G.

Joshkie said...

Billy -

Thanks for the kind words and I did get the warning about walking to far out on the limb, and it is something I worry about and look out for.

The question I ask then, "Is this based on a fantasy or in reality?" Sometimes to know the deference an outside source is need.

So, thank you,

Joshkie said...

I've always found math soothing, I think I know why know.

A math problem is just a question waiting for an answer.


Anonymous said...


I wonder if you will define and post on "Messing with the mind" technique?

You leave me/us hanging.

Kasey said...

Great blog. The math reminded me of playing d&d. Do you know how to figure out thaco?

Kasey said...

What, every one is too cool to admit they played d&d a time or two back in the day?

killshot80 said...

Oh you have no idea :-)