Saturday, December 24, 2011

Assumptions and Biases

We all have biases and assumptions as instructors. So does your instructor. We can't help it. We see the world a certain way and certain things have worked for us. The things that worked (for us, in our environment) are where we concentrate our teaching.

An athletic martial artist who has worked as a bouncer will believe and teach that you see things coming and your physical attributes are key.

An instructor who has survived a rape attempt may well believe that the key is unbridled ferocity, slipping the leash. If they won despite disadvantages in strength, size and position they will believe and teach that strength, size and position are secondary to mindset. If they could not even think of a technique in the moment, they will likely teach that technique is irrelevant.

So here are my biases and assumptions, to the extent that I see them (the thing with blindspots is that you can't see them, so there are many I will miss.)

  1. Unarmed arts only exist for emergencies you didn't see coming. If you can predict it and plan it and force is unavoidable, it is stupid to go in without a weapon. For that matter, without getting every advantage you can.
  2. Which means that the basic environment of an unarmed encounter is the position of disadvantage. Bad structure, positioning, footing, injured, overwhelmed and behind the curve.
  3. Almost always, the ones you see coming you can ward off by positioning or verbal de-escalation. As such I've often and (so far) successfully, put myself in positions that weren't tactically optimal in order to talk stuff down (strategically preferable).
  4. I don't think conflict is a physical problem most of the time (see number 3) and even when it is a physical problem, there are minds and social rules and the world involved. The more of those elements you can manipulate skillfully, the better off you are. Sometimes you play the cards, sometimes you play the person and sometimes you play the table.
  5. I expect the threat to have the advantage in size and strength or to be crazy (mental instability or drugs). Because almost all of them were one or the other. Potentially sampling error... but I think it makes sense, since you'd have to be crazy to routinely attack bigger and stronger people.
  6. I believe in the primacy of infighting. This is the prejudice that is most likely to be incompatible with a student's nature. Classical JJ is an infighting system-- weapons were assumed and there was no safe way to finish it at long range. Early I learned that people freak out more when someone tries to close, and that shaped my personality. Thus, by nature and training, I'm an infighter. I tend to reject techniques that keep distance and most of the techniques I prefer (and therefor teach) put you at clinch range. If that's not a good range for you, I'm unlikely to be a good teacher.
  7. I tend not to injure people. That was the preferred outcome on my job-- maximum control with minimum injury. That's shaped a lot in that I have very few strikes I consider reliable. Marc consistently gives me a bad time because I don't always treat potentially deadly threats as seriously as he thinks I should.
  8. Weapons: I'm completely cool with improvised weapons and using obstacles, etc. But for the first ten years of my career, we were not allowed to carry anything. When OC was finally authorized, I just never thought about it. OTOH, my weapon training was completely offensive, centered around hostage rescue tactics with a team. My mindset is completely different when I pack versus when I don't.
  9. I have very weak social instincts. This means that I don't tend to get emotional or competitive when I fight...and I don't really understand why other people do. It's good in that the lack of anger never makes me want to overstep bounds, but some of my basic things- the range, positioning, not bothering to make eye contact, smelling, face contact-- are sometimes hard for others. Many people have to force themselves to grab a face, for instance, whereas grabbing a collar or neck is (emotionally) easier. Just rarely as effective.
There are more, I'm sure. Do this analysis for yourself, your style and your instructor. It all adds up to each of us are training for a generally narrow range of conflict. Including me. Be aware.

Hope you all had a good Solstice.


6 comments:

Josh K. said...

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Ben C. said...

Making me think outside the box again Sarge. Not cool man.

pax said...

You and I aren't very different in our biases. We share congruence with most of these to one degree or another.

#3 is interesting: while I agree with you that the situations we see coming can often be deflected or deterred, I don't agree very strongly because I harbor serious doubts about the number of problems even an alert you/I/generic-person really can see coming. I think deflecting an attack before it happens is far often more organic than deliberate, that it flows more often out of who someone is than out of any specific set of behaviors, and that most people who flunk an interview with a criminal, or cause him to abort an attack in its early stages, have no idea and never will have any idea they've done so. The only feedback most people get, after such contact, is of the functionally-useless sort that says, "I must have been imagining something ... wasn't I?" or the even less-useful, "He came out of nowhere and I never even saw him." In other words, I share your bias toward the avoidance/deterrence dynamic, but not your optimism as to its functional usefulness.

More differences, more similarities. Distance and weapons: I carry a gun for the express purpose of keeping an attacker away from me. Oddly, I'm not upset at the idea of physical contact per se, and have only a mild reaction to contact on the mat even in scenario work. But as a small statured and sedentary middle aged woman, I'm very much aware that close contact pits my worst weaknesses against an active criminal's greatest strengths. So I carry a weapon wherever it's legal for the express purpose of avoiding that equation.

Weak social instincts, another one we share. Under stress I go cold, not hot. But I truly don't need heat in order to act.

Perhaps because I go cold rather than hot, I do tend to freeze. It's a freeze of analysis, and not at all a lack of will. The only way I know to combat a freeze of that sort is to think through as much as possible ahead of time, at least to the extent and degree that's possible. And that brings us to my main point: I love your work because you make me really think, and often bring out critical factors I almost certainly wouldn't have found on my own. Thanks for that!

Maija said...

My bias is a huge fan of #4. Well put.

Justthisguy said...

"I have very weak social instincts." Heh. Me, too. I first found your blog by googling "autistic." Your post on '"duty to act" came up.

I think a touch of the "A" is generally a good thing, like salt in the stew. Too much can ruin the flavor.

I am fairly comfortable with my own autitude, except for the not-getting-laid and not-getting-hired parts.

Rory said...

JustThisGuy- I think like a lot of things, a touch of 'A' is a super-power if you use it and terrible if you never figure out how to use it. And Feynman had the perfect asperger's way to meet women.