Thursday, July 07, 2011

Science, Knives and Rambling

My heart is warmed.
Jake Steinmann over on his blog has a cadre of volunteers to go bang my contention that "controlling the weapon arm" as a first defense priority is... well, he'll see and then he'll pass on the data. I hope everyone understands how critical it is that people go see, and then pass on the data.

Most of the science of self-defense is crap. Someone comes up with a contention or a marketing strategy and then medical and psychological journals are combed looking for something that might support it. But there are problems with that. Most of the people combing the literature aren't scientists, they're martial artists. And sometimes I'm convinced that they never read past the abstracts... and so we have cardiac stress tests (treadmill running) used to substantiate the effects of hormonal stress. Stuff like that.

Dr. Bill Lewinski over at Force Science News seems to have the best grasp of experimental methodology... but most of the rest of the stuff in the field is crap. From voluntary questionnaires aimed at mass murderers, (Oh, he may haver killed six people without any motive but he doesn't have a reason to lie... sigh) To people getting in a pissing match because research and marketing may not match

Or people who quote in little circles: Dr. A says, "Mr. B contends that X+X=Z" and then Mr. B says, "In a paper published last year, Dr. A said X+X=Z" which is technically true, but still a form of intellectual incest.

I'm an INTJ. I pretty much only give a crap about whether something works. That outweighs whether it was handed down in a pure form for 200 years or if elite commandos train it. I'm also not super-interested in whether it works in class. If you explain to a group of people that hitting three points on the lung meridian in succession will knock them out, it will work on a surprising number of people... but if you go randomly smacking three points on strangers without the explanation, none pass out and they tend to get mad. Hmmmm.

So when someone tells everyone in a class how to defend against a knife and it works in class, that's not enough for me.

The live knife thing. We banged it. Mac came up with the best answer (though he has since said it was my idea, he is old and his memory is incorrect)... but just think it through: if there was something that worked reliably against a knife, people would quit carrying knives.

I'm rambling now (hotel after about twenty hours driving). The late Carl Cestari wrote something interesting about knives and knife users. His widow gave me permission to use it in "Violence: A Writer's Guide"... but not here.

I think Jake is on the right track. Question. Test to destruction. Report. That is the Scholar's courage, and it completely trumps the Warrior's.
I have been remiss in keeping you up to date.

Bunch of stuff in New England in August (I'm not running any of it, but if someone wants to get together on the off times, let me know.)
A two-part interview with Kris Wilder and Lawrence Kane (I seem incapable of sticking to a time limit):

I think that's about it.


Joshkie said...

Rory -

First off, I listened to the pod casts; good stuff, but it got me thinking. 

This might not be the best venue to field this question I have, but I'll let the larger community weigh in too.

I want to start off by saying, I'm not a martial-artist. I've never trained in anything longer than 6 months. I've always worried about locking myself into a system. This could be me just being bad lazy and not wanting to commit, but I think this allows me a mental flexibility, as Jake would put it "no system bias." then again I don't know what I don't know, so there could basic errors in the assumptions that I've made. 
Another thing I've found is the deeper you get into any mental disiplen the harder it is to to think outside the box. Not sure how true this is for the physical, but it been suggested by other commenters and by few of your own posts that it is safe to assume  it does lead to at lest a narrowing of focus to the options within the system.

So, my question is; how far down the rabbit whole, of martial arts, does a person need to go to be effective in a physical encounter?

I have my own answer, so I'm more or less just looking for your thoughts on this.


Joshkie said...

P.S. You might have covered this in "Facing Violence" but I'm taking reading it kind of slow or maybe FV is the answer in and of it's self.


Jake said...

My turn to feel flattered, I guess. In a way, I'm saddened by the idea that what I'm doing is particularly special. More people should do this.


Tony Blauer has a great expression that "there are more people who defend themselves every day, with absolutely no martial arts training whatsoever, than there ever will be trained martial artists who get attacked and successfully defend themselves."

The mental and psychological fortitude gets you way further than dancing around in funny pajamas (and I like dancing around in funny pajamas, for the record).

So I guess my answer would be: not very far at all.

Kasey said...

Small world Dr Lewinski was my college advisor and Goju Ryu Karate Sensei

AF1 said...

The Straight Blast Gym guys use the S.T.A.B system of knife defense which focuses on controlling the weapon arm.

That gym is famous for banging it out. In fact if I'm not mistaken it was them who first coined the phrase "alive training."

So if they say it really works, and you say it doesn't work, who are we to believe? Is it possible that there is more than one way to skin a cat?

Andy said...


Marc MacYoung says on his website (which is a huge rabbit hole in it self) about self defense,

"The techniques are simple, effective and often brutal. You don’t have to spend five years learning them. Most of these can be taught in well under three months, if not an intensive weekend"

I think the most important thing I've learned about self-defense is the situational awareness part, with that in tact the odds of me being in a physical encounter are pretty small.

zzrzinn said...

I'll bite on the STAB thing;

from the videos i've seen the program looks heavily centered on standing grappling for position in a 'live' environment with a dude with a knife.

Nothing wrong with that, but if the place you start from is "how can I grapple a guy with a knife in order to disarm it" will come up with different conclusion than someone whose scenario asks different questions.

Don't bite my head off if i'm missing something with the STAB stuff, i'm just going by what little i've seen.

Jim said...

RE: how to determine what's "right" in self-defense...


Everything that has worked was right. Everything that has failed was wrong. It's that simple. You aren't me; I'm not you. Your situation isn't the same as mine, and my encounter is different from yours.

So look at various methods, then try them out. Start with a fairly compliant partner, if it's new technique that you're just feeling out, then increase the resistance as you get the hang of it. Depending on your background, your experience, and what your partner brings to the party, that might be one or two reps easy... or one or two weeks of working it easy.

Your goal is to understand what works for you... while also throwing the other stuff into the toolbox. Under pressure, I've had stuff I haven't practiced in ages (and would have said I'd never use) pop out because it fit the situation. Rory, I believe, has described several directly experienced knife encounters. None of them "followed the rules."`

Or... as Rory said, bang it out!

Scott said...

Hey, there is another way of looking at it. The idea that "control" is a goal is itself an assumption that doesn't apply to many situations. Anyway, my first thought was, if it's a spear coming at you do you try to control the "spear arm?' oh wait there are two, well then do you try to control the spear, hmmm... maybe, it you can avoid the tip and grab it. But the basic formula, 'I use my mass to attack his mass' is probably going to be what stops him. Then again, getting some yucky stuff in his eyes would probably do the trick...I guess I'm going to have to bring a bag of flour to my next class...bang, bang....

Anonymous said...

This is not science agreed, but what I will say is that you need to work in a police environment, with access to information about assaults involving knives to really understand , witness statements,victim statements, cctv where available.not all Leos will have access to this , if they do have it , then they are closely monitored. this will not make them an expert, it will just give them a better informed opinion, if you don't have this access, or access to something similar such as a nurse or doctor in ER......then you just have an opinion

Joshkie said...

Anon -

I have Rory.


Mac said...

If you can see it coming, you probably have time to run or, if you don't mind bleeding, doing fancy stuff like 'riding' the limb (from Punong Guro Edgar Sulite's LAMECO) to reversing the flow (Professor Presas) and all kinds of fancy things. The trick is to see it coming soon enough. And if it's soon enough, why are you still standing there?

Christian Lemburg said...

Hm ... what I don't get here is the distinction between controlling the attacking limb and shutting down the attacker as alternatives ... of course you need to do both. Yes, that is hard, but certainly possible, especially if you are lucky enough to hit the head hard in the very beginning. I have done Jake's experiment with some willing members in our club, usually the attacker will get in some hits, but if you focus on hitting the head hard from the start while somehow defending the initial attacks, the attacks will slow down, giving you a chance to go in and control and kick or knee him until he's done.

Wishing Jake good luck with this, watch your knees, partner. We got some nasty experiences there with collisions and falling down on each other.

Steve Perry said...

Bare against the blade is almost always going to be an "Oh, shit!" move. If steel didn't usually beat flesh, we'd still be fighting wars with our fists.

Bare against the blade is a low-percentage game, last resort, and given a choice, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

Against an attacker who actually knows what s/he is doing with a knife, bare = hamburger. Generally speaking. If you assume the knifer knows something and he doesn't, that doesn't cost you anything. If you assume he hasn't a clue and he does? You are catfish fillet.

Jack said...

Off topic, but I had read Meditations on Violence and found it interesting and useful. I live in NYC, my family was visiting from Dublin, Ireland about 18 months ago.
To give my parents a break, offered to take my much younger adoptive brother to my ju-jitsu/judo class and then to Times Square where he wanted to buy some sports wear.

While we were looking around Times Square, my brother accidentally nudged a CD vendor with his bag. The guy was a thug and started giving my brother some abuse with an undercurrent of threat. I think partially because the vendor had his buddy with him. My brother is from Nigeria and was 20 at the time. There were no other young black men nearby, so I'm guessing the vendor figured he was alone. My brother's in good shape but is a lean 5'9", and is also a pleasant, friendly kid. He simply had no idea why the guy was overreacting so.
So, I tried to talk the guy down, pointing out my brother was on vacation, it was crowded. Once he saw it was going to be a two on two situation he got a lot more thoughtful and conciliatory (Also, I'm 225lbs and had a t-shirt that I had picked up at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok with the words "King Professional Boxing" in nice big letters)
But one of the things that was foremost at my mind was to give the guy an out, so he wouldn't feel cornered into fighting. Afterwards, I felt stressed and tense.
I'm not a natural fighter.
I've trained in kenpo karate, kung fu san soo in the past. I'm pretty strong, I pay attention during class, I play judo specifically get used to impact and non-cooperative bouts (something I felt was missing from the kenpo and san soo).
I can hit hard. I train boxing conditioning twice a week for 80 minutes, jujitsu 3 times a week, for 2.5 hours, yoga once a week to keep the wife happy.

But against this I'm not particularly co-ordinated, I don't box full contact because of the risks of brain damage, and I tense up.

One explanation I read was that maybe 20% of people naturally do not freeze during the start of violence. Like a bear they have no predators (the best soldiers, police, firemen, violent criminals are supposed to fall into that category). Another 20% are like rabbits. Fighting back is simply not an option for them, they curl into a ball. The other 60% of people first reacton not necessarily to take action, but they can be trained to do so). I'd probably put myself in the average 60%.

One of the the things I took away from reading your work, is that it is normal for most people to feel fear, temporarily freeze. I feel less bad about feeling fear, a tension in the chest (although, I'd admit from a self-defence point of view it would be better if I didn't)

Joshkie said...

I think we as a group our missing the point of what Rory means by "Attacking the Mind" or "Shutting Down the Brainstem."

We been focused on doing physical damage, not enterupting their plan for how the fight should go.

What can we do to cause our attackers to freeze and enterupt what ever plan they come up with, for how they want the fight to go?


Steve Perry said...

Stonewall Jackson's Dictum, Joskie -- Get there firstest with the mostest.

Rory's premise starts with the notion that the bad guy is apt to get there first, and then what do you do? Once action has commence and you are behind, catching up and getting ahead is the trick.

I think the reason we focus on the how-to-stop-the-knife stuff, low-percentage as it might be, is because to catch up, one has to avoid being sliced and diced too much.

The old recipe about how to make rabbit stew:

First, catch a rabbit ...

Joshkie said...

Steve -

But, do you need to gain control the weapon if you lock your attacker in the OO part of the OODA Loop by doing something he doesn't ecpect.

We been talking about mutual combat solutions meeting the attacker on his terms. I bring this up cause I was skimming chapter 6 The Fight and Rory talks about doing the unexpected.

I don't remember who said it or where I heard it, but someone said (and probably screwing this up), "The most dangerious people to fight are not the professionals, but the amateurs, you can count on the professionals to act a certain way. The amateurs not so much."

I'm not sure if Mac was referring to the mystical art of the TASER or some other mystical art he know for rendering a knife wilding attacher unconscious when he made this comment:

"Control the person, control the weapon. I figure an unconscious bad guy can have all the weapons he wants.

7:58 PM (made on the previos post "Getting the Stupid Out")

But why play by the 'rules',

Joshkie said...

P.S. When Mac made his comment, the first thing to flash through my mind was that Gieco commercial is the pen mightier than the sword.