Friday, April 29, 2011

Two More Thoughts

High-level playing for me isn't a thing of words or sight. What I remember tends to be tactile and not stored in the word-part of my brain either, so forgive me if details are wrong.

Two more insights playing with Maija: Her instructor had moved completely away from forms and patterned drills. They trained by mixing it up with range and rhythm and weapon and intensity. It is really close to what I am trying to do in making the one-step the basic drill. Most efficient movement in any given instant. Fight to the goal. Constant adaptation. As it speeds up, the one-step blends flawlessly with jujutsu randori, but that's another thing.

The effect it had on Maija were pretty obvious on one level: she didn't need any idea of what I did or how I fought or moved to be able to play. She could adapt to almost anything I threw at her and if it took a second, that was okay, too. But possibly the most profound thing, the thing that took a couple of days to bubble up to consciousness was Maija's attitude towards fear.

I'm not going to say she didn't feel any. I have no idea what she felt. But almost every high-level practitioner I've played with had a little hesitation, a little ego, a little worry in them. It showed in how they moved and revealed quickly how to hurt them. No emotional hesitation from Maija. Damn few glitches, and almost all of those were just unfamiliarity.

By playing in chaos from the very beginning, she was expecting it. She may have been feeling fear but if so it was the kind of, "Well, what do you expect? Of course I'm afraid" that doesn't affect performance. Fear, insecurity was just a data point. The teaching method had shifted it to the 'irrelevant data' list.
The second thought is comparatively minor: Maija'd asked something about taking some one down to control. So I shifted mindsets and did it: pass, control elbows, sweep to handcuffing position.

Maija asked, quite reasonably, "Wouldn't that also make it easier to kill?" It took me a second to understand the question, but it opened up a huge can of worms that might be important for martial artists.

Control and injure are two totally different mindsets for two totally different situations. Yes, if I can take you down and get you in a submission, I can stab you easily. But if I can take you down and control you, there is no need to stab. It's no longer justified or necessary. If I can disarm you and then stab you with your own knife, it may be elegant martial arts, but it is also homicide.

Unless I am sure I can take the person down without injury, I don't use that mindset. It's dangerous and I will likely be hurt. Conversely, if I am sure, going into predator mode is unethical and what I would do would be unjustified and likely illegal.

Different things and this is one to watch: if your training or your personality presents these two situations as equivalents with similar skills and priorities it is profoundly out of touch with reality. If I ever make the big list of "Signs that all my training is really only indulging in a fantasy" this would be high on the list:

Does not distinguish between life-threatening and non-life-threatening situations.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

After Action ---and Stuff

It's already Wednesday.  Wow.

The weekend was good, full and rich.  I'm still letting it settle.

The seminar Saturday was a small gathering, but nice.  Sifu Jim Sanborn found a nice spot.  I'd expected a class mostly of college students with very limited knowledge and awareness of some of the bad things the world has to offer.  What I got was a much more mature crowd, mostly violence professionals or with at least a hand in that world.  That let me take it a little deeper than might have been possible otherwise, but I still wish, as I always do, for more time.  This particular class gave really short shrift to all but the most basic physical things.

An impromptu house party followed, with old friends and new friends and some good talking.
Maija was here for the weekend.  I'll add links later, if I remember.  She is a devoted student of Sonny Umpad and carries on his legacy... with the special difficulty of carrying on a legacy that Sonny was careful to never define.  She wears it well and was a pure pleasure to flow with.

I don't want to put words in her mouth or descriptions that I'm unsure of.  So all that follows should come with a 'so it seems to me' caveat:
Maija's specialty is in unscripted flow, particularly with a variety of Filipino weapons.  No set patterns.  No if-then.  Awareness of what is going on and what that gives you; what is happening and where it naturally leads...  So we played with that attitude and skill in the context of close-quarters work.  Played with damage when you couldn't rely on sharp steel.  Touched on Sonny's idea of the dark side (and that's when the athletic club manager got nervous and asked us to put the weapons away.)  Played with the shadow zone between armed and unarmed.

It was fun, and I'm still finding little bruises I did not notice during the weekend.  That's cool.  And moving at that level with someone so skilled, unafraid, and exploring was energizing as anything.

We also talked for hours and it wasn't enough.  Just the two of us sometimes and over coffee with Mac.  She told me a lot about Sonny.  Maija is too humble to accept it, but she is definitely what he was trying to create and represents him well.
More writing, which is always frustrating at this (the rewrite with editorial input) stage. Who knew that The Chicago Manual of Style was my editor's bible?  Ick.

Also received the manuscript of the book that Tim wrote before he died.  I'm reading it, hearing his voice.  I agreed to edit it in preparation for submission.  It's good, but there are parts that should be removed from an editorial standpoint that I want to keep as a memorial.  It will all work out.

Asked to speak with an immigrant group about American laws and customs concerning violence.  Evidently some have been getting into trouble dealing with insults and the like the old-school way.

One day seminar in Beaverton May 8th.  "Facing Violence" ships May 16.  Drills workshop in Everett Washington May 21.  Signing at Cedar Hills Powell's May 25th.  Athens, Greece May 27-29.  Check the specific page or the calendar at the main website:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Depth and Breadth

Something I will have to hammer at the Logic of Violence seminar in Seattle is to remember depth and breadth.  Overall, the class will use the methodology of disaster planning and apply it to self-defense.  That's cool, but one of the things martial artists tend to do is to look at problems very narrowly:

A fist is coming at my face-- what do I do?
The knife is arcing towards my belly-- what do I do?

By looking at this one slice of time, you miss the thousands of better options that surround it.  Sure, martial arts are primarily physical skills.  In many (I think most) schools, thinking and strategy rarely get more than lip-service. Tactics taught are usually limited to sparring.

Self-defense and survival are very different animals: primarily mental skills, secondarily emotional and only physical when you really screw up or have a very bad, unlucky day.

So you need to look at the problem broadly, in time.  This is why situational awareness is so important... but that is another subject that rarely gets more than lip-service.  Situational awareness is just a phrase and unless you are taught, specifically, what to be aware of it is an empty phrase.  You need to learn violence dynamics from victim selection and terrain to predator tactics.  You need to be able to tell a dominance display from a pre-assault indicator and know precisely when a dominance display becomes dangerous.  You need to know how the motivations behind an assault differ from those behind a show, because those will dictate effective and ineffective de-escalation.

Broadly.  The earlier you can see something coming, the more options you have.  The more you know about interpreting what you see, the more precisely you can deal with it.  This is, or should be, common sense and it should be integral whenever anyone claims to teach self-defense.

When a predator scans for a likely victim and works to separate her from others, there are stages where she can not be noticed in the scan; stages where she can handle things through social control by remote; where she can make the predator doubt that he has read the situation correctly; stages where she might be able to directly discourage... but if she isn't taught to recognize these or doesn't know what to do, she is left with a desperate fight with a bigger, stronger and possibly armed person who has taken every tactical advantage.

Some do win from there, but very few unscathed.

There is another blindspot that I call the depth of the problem.  Things freeze people.  They go into denial.  "This isn't happening" or they let their identity interfere with their needs, "I know I should fight, but that would be rude."  These mental errors have happened too often and been too well documented to safely ignore.  The physical aspects of self defense are relatively easy-- or they would be if the mental aspects didn't interfere.

And there is a separate but intertwined emotional aspect: fighting when you are afraid or angry you rarely fight well.  An experienced predator with the right victim can shock the victim into a feeling of complete helplessness.  It is an incredible act of will and incredibly difficult thing to fight when you are sure there is no hope, no chance.  When you know that you have already lost and any resistance will be torturously punished.

Some predators are good at putting people into that mindset.  Abusers actively train victims to be afraid to do or try anything... but some few fight and prevail.  As I said, an incredible act of will.

If you teach self-defense, be careful not to compress time.  Long before the bear hug escape or the snap kick to the knee there was likely a better, surer, safer option.  And remember that no matter who you train, in the really dark moment when he or she absolutely needs the skills, they will not be the eager student you know.  They will be a chosen victim, possibly already injured, dominated and without a feeling of hope.

Teach them to fight from there.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Conflict simulations done right, with skilled and experienced role-players, non-lethal subcaliber marking rounds and all the toys, is about as close as you're going to get to a real rubber meet the road experience. But for shooters, the video simulators can come close. Movement is limited, you can't think too far outside the box and you pretty much are limited to move, talk or shoot (pistol whipping the screen would be costly...)

Our agency had a Range 3000. Programable, cool. Fun.

I had no idea that anything like it was available to civilians. I was wrong.

In the ongoing quest for a place to hold some regular classes, Mike McDonald of Threat Solutions introduced me to Ryan Tuttle of Threat Dynamics. Threat Dynamics is a business out in Hillsboro that uses video graphics and safe weapon simulators to run anyone, officer or civilian, through scenarios ranging from gang ambushes to active shooters to just witnessing a drug deal between guys who don't like witnesses.

It was a blast, but I am woefully out of practice-- my one hostage shot was okay but should have been down and left at least an inch. I actually missed a long range shot. Use of cover was okay (though it took a minute to get used to the 300 degree screen and what was and wasn't cover.)

Like I said. Coolness. If you're a shooter, especially a range shooter, definitely go play. I can't evaluate Ryan's coaching, though from the scenarios I played he has an excellent eye for bad guys, but I suspect it's pretty good. More on that when and if I get a chance to see him teach.

Heee. Heee. Heee. The modern world has the BEST toys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talk Around

I had a good weekend.  Lots of scotch and good meat.  People I enjoyed and a new friend, some crafty old dog who I think could teach me a lot about his world.

The most valuable part came in the wee hours after most had gone to sleep.  RC and I talking about the things we can only talk around with most people.  Not because of lack of skill or interest or vocabulary... just a lack of frame of reference.

CS was a good kid.  He was a rookie officer when I was a rookie sergeant.  He had an FTO as his primary but as I was learning my new job I spent a lot of time teaching him my old job.  He was good at it, and it was looking like a good career.  He had just gotten married and seemed deliriously happy. For whatever reason, a mystery to me, his friends, his bride, he went to the coast alone, got a room in a hotel and hung himself in the shower.

That was my eighth funeral in two months, all from suicides.  I still hate funerals.

I'm on leave in British Columbia when major news source runs a banner below the regular news citing a number of Americans killed at the Baghdad Police Academy bombing.  Shit.  That was a hundred yards from where I slept!  Those were guys I knew!  Who?  How many?.... Turns out it was just another bullshit story.  Guess they figured people wouldn't get worked up just over Iraqi bodies...

Four hard core barricaded bad guys.  The weapons we can confirm include the handle from a paper cutter, twelve-inch-long shards of glass with wrapped handles and a pile of used syringes.  Some administrator decides "these are only children" and orders us to go in unarmed.  I know how to survive that but it's not by taking chances and the end result is the decision that today will probably be the day that I kill a child.  In the end, a wiser head prevails and things end flawlessly, with the right tools and without serious injury.

What are the odds of stopping a full power knife thrust to the kidneys because I saw a stupid reflection?  Or talking down the drunk old man with the shotgun pointed at my belly?  And always, what were the alternatives?

Maybe that all sounds like bragging or whining. Not the point.  I can tell the stories (but usually don't) but the things behind the stories, the 'why' and the lessons learned and the things going on in the head and the belly are things I (we, really, that's the point) usually wind up talking around.

A few get it.  Mac and Sean are my usual go to guys.  Mike.   A few others.  I had the chance last weekend with a relatively new face, someone I've trained with but not bled with, and it was pretty comfortable.  Good timing, too.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Not everyone does things for the same reason. Some people will get what I do, some won't. Some won't get it because they have no frame of reference and are simply incapable of truly understanding certain experiences. It's not a matter of intelligence or taste or opinion or anything internal. I will never understand childbirth. Seen it, trained to assist, I know all the words... but I don't get it. Not the way that K does.

And I will do everything in my power to make sure that she never 'gets' some of the things that I do.

Others won't get it because it threatens a piece of their identity. This isn't a bad thing or a good thing. We all get our identity from some pretty weird places. For entirely too long my identity was completely tied to three strips of cloth on my arm, just as an example.

What we train to do is one thing. As long as it stays abstract, as long as you never actually break a human being, there's no real identity in that end state. Whether you break a person with a kick or a body slam or an axe handle, it's imaginary until you do it. But how you train, that's real. Something you tangibly do, every day. That's where the identity lies. And if we pretend or believe that the end state (a broken threat) is the real reason, our training must serve that, right? So our training must be correct, right? To challenge that is to challenge identity.

Specific example (cause we talked it to death over the weekend)-- coming out of western weapons, I was always taught that three of the worst habits in beginners were caused by television. After watching years of Errol Flynn movies people:
  • Aimed at the weapon instead of the opponent
  • Tried to fight from out of range
  • Stayed in a predictable rhythm
These are, as I was trained and still believe, the three worst habits in sword training. There is a very popular drill that is based on these three things.

I don't want to debate the merits of that drill here (not because I have an issue with debating it but because the two people who were defending it most staunchly aren't here to respond and it would feel like a late hit.)

It's not just this one drill. I see it in a lot of training. People are ingraining identity tags, not skills. Or, more realistically, they are ingraining skills but too often skills in imaginary and useless things.

I didn't always think this way. I was in it too deep, really, to question it.

For the last two years I've been teaching civilians. I love it, they need it. But there is very little sense of urgency in them.

For the ten or twelve years before that, though, I wasn't teaching civilians. The people weren't there for a hobby or identity.

EVERY CLASS that I taught I would look at the officers and know, without a doubt, that at least a third of that class would need what I taught before the year was out and at least one would bet their lives on it. If I bullshitted them, if I lied to them, if I made them comfortable instead of effective the price would be paid in blood and I would be one of the ones going to do the hospital visits or, gods forfend, the funerals.

It's a huge responsibility. You will have these men and women for eight hours a year. Not all are in great shape: some are old, some are small, many have old injuries. They had to be able to prevail against younger, stronger people, people who sometimes got the first move at close range and had no compunction about spilling blood.

It makes you rethink everything you do. You don't have time for egos. The drills aren't about identity. Going home to your family is your identity. There is no time to waste. And you can't handwave past the bad stuff. With only those eight hours we had people handle situations that experienced martial artists put in a "That's a no-win situation. We don't train for that" category.

We (there were others involved, but it was largely Mac and me) didn't have that option. If we took that attitude... hospital visits. Funerals. I hate funerals.

I don’t know if it was luck or grace or what we taught, but we had very few injuries during the years we taught the new system and a few spectacular successes.

That's an aside. The pressure to make something effective, the responsibility for other people's lives, the limited time, the high stakes forced us to apply the same idea of ruthless efficiency to teaching that your martial arts should apply to combat. And it worked.

I can share that, share what we learned... but can't (and really not all that interested) in whether others get it. The ones that play for those stakes get it (and thanks, RC for the talks this weekend.) For the rest, it's just some data. Do as you will.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Relevance and Reframing

This is probably going to be too esoteric for anyone except me to spend time on, but it's one of the threads that spawns from the last post.

(Caveat: like anything where I talk about levels or different ways to think, I can only describe the stuff I've done.  Don't think there is an endstate.  Anything I do, someone else has taken farther or deeper.)

Knowing what matters and what doesn't matter is important, but there is a lot of latitude in deciding how something matters.  In seminars, I'm always hammering on the concept of 'gifts.'
 Almost anything you see and anything the threat does serves you if you learn to see it... but sometimes disaster also has a gift if you choose to see it right.

Someone grabs your leg.  Are you off balance and unstable?  Or can you choose to own your common center of gravity, make his legs part of your tripod and keep your stability while you hammer him with your completely free hands?

Is a ground-and-pound the worst case scenario or (as it often is on concrete floors) a gift where a slight hip twitch gets the threat to shatter his own hand?

This goes subtle.  If I tell you "It's only pain. Ignore it." You will find it encouraging.  If I tell you, "It's only pain, don't think about it,"  you will likely obsess on the pain.  The meanings are identical, but the brain processes positive ("do" statements) and negative ("don't" statements) very differently.  It's an especially important point in teaching, but it affects things as varied as whether your children will be active or passive to whether a threat can maintain the will to fight.

There is an old description of jujutsu as the 'art of advantage.'  In any instant, any action, any situation there is something that can be turned to your advantage.  Not to go all pseudo-Japanese on you, but the difference between a fighter and a strategist is the practical application of this skill.

A fighter practices hitting harder, moving his or her weapon more fluidly.  A strategist practices recognizing and exploiting at the same level of reflex, the chaos inherent in the system.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Relevant and Irrelevant Data

If you have a good plan, you don't change the plan without new, relevant data.
There's a pyramid that precedes this: if you've never created and executed a plan before, you wouldn't necessarily recognize either a good plan or a terrible plan.  If you've spent no time analyzing the situation (both specific, e.g. "what is happening right now?" and general e.g. "How do these things usually develop?") your plan is basically random hope.

So to even get to what we are talking about, you must know the problem, you must be able to design a plan, you have to be able to integrate a wide variety of sources and information, you have to understand your own resources and the mechanics of the situation...and on top of that you'd better not be stupid.

With all that, and intelligence, you'll make a good plan.  Execute the plan, without hesitation.  Stick to the plan, even though some things change... until you get new, relevant, information.

Steve writes on the last post that given the dynamic of a close range knife assault, "I'm curious as to why expecting to get cut or stabbed *isn'*t part of the scenario? "

This is an aside, not to the meat of the post:  Some instructors will tell you you will get cut in a knife fight or knife defense.  Some will tell you to trust the technique and you won't.  Both are lying through their teeth.  They may not know it, but here's the deal: sometimes you get cut, sometimes you don't.  I'm standing at five (two close range assaults, one attempted draw, one free weapon brandishing, one unarmed disarming with a team) without a scratch.  Sean at six without a scratch.  Brad had one, with literally minor scratches.  Don't know how many Mauricio has had, but some were messy bloody.
You don't know if you'll be cut.  You don't know if you won't.  You don't know if the angel of unbelievable luck will be on your shoulder or the bad guy's...and neither does your instructor.  I despise when people say either thing (will get cut or won't) for purely practical reasons.  Assuming you say it outside of a group of martial ballerinas, it may be tested someday.  If the student gets the opposite result he or she will have to wonder: "What else did the instructor lie about?"
Making absolute statements in a situation with absolute stakes... you'd better be right.  Because if you are blowing smoke out your ass about this, you are blowing smoke on other things, too.  Maybe on everything.  But it doesn't matter, because the student cannot and should not ever trust you again.

What about, "Expect to get cut?"  here's where we move towards the meat of the post.  In any other endeavor, is focusing on an expectation, especially a negative outcome, considered an intelligent thing to do?  You shouldn't be surprised if you get cut (or don't) or if you get punched or slammed.  But wasting energy or thought expecting anything is stupid.  You can't afford the inefficiency.

This might be a hard sell but (especially for Steve and other authors out there, this is one of the ways operators think that civilians don't get): Getting shot or stabbed isn't automatically a relevant data point.

If you made a good plan, say to run away as fast as you can, and you get shot... does that affect the plan in any way?  If running is the right thing to do, running while bleeding is probably even more important.  Standing still and coming up with another plan is suicidal.  Covering the distance you just made under fire to fight while wounded is stone dumb.  Trying to hide when someone has you in his sights is about as effective as hiding under the covers.

Getting shot is not automatically a relevant datapoint.  Your leg buckling is.  Getting stabbed is not.  Everything getting slippery or your eyes starting to go black on the edges are.  Pain is not important to the execution of your plan.  Loss of limb function is.

And so with close range knife defense: if you have no option but to fight, does getting cut or stabbed change that fact?  Is it now time to stop and think?  Or to expose your back and run, which is not easy nor safe at knife range.  It should, at most, be a signal to increase the ferocity, but if it is, you weren't being ferocious enough to begin with.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Video Plans

The first two of these won't be shot until September and I have absolutely no experience with this, so I don't know how long production and distribution will take.  Anyway, David Silver at YMAA has been doing the planning for two videos as kind of a match/augmentation of the books.

My concept right now, for the video of "Meditations on Violence" is simply to look at an attack, specifically an assault.  To look at the motivation and what that requires from the bad guy (if a bad guy is terrified of withdrawals, his actions must result in money, must be physically safe and not get him caught).  How those requirements drive the dynamics of much violence (goals dictate strategy, strategy dictates tactics, tactics dictate technique.  Sound familiar?)

And that, on the victim end, dictates what you must recover from.  MoV, as a video, will be all about recovering from extreme disadvantage.

The "Facing Violence" video will cover the seven necessary areas: legal/ethical; Violence Dynamics; Avoidance, E&E and De-escalation; Operant conditioning for counter assault; Breaking the freeze; Realities of dynamic fighting and; Aftermath.  Lots of it will refer to the book.  A ninety-minute lecture on self-defense law would be boring as hell.

They should be good and YMAA has a reputation for putting out high-quality videos.

There's a third one I want to do, though, and the real reason is that most knife defense instruction makes me sick.  I'm not a knife guy.  I've played in a couple of systems and had five real encounters.  Big deal.  But the most intense of the knife systems didn't resemble the real encounters in any way.

This is what I want to do and, if I had my dream team, who I would like to team up with:

Mauricio in Montreal.  He comes from a knife culture and he is more scarred up from that than anyone I know who has lived.  Plus he's skilled, intelligent and I love him like a brother.


Teja from Devi Protective Offense.  NOT because of her extensive training in a knife system, but because she understands how women are victimized.

So instead of some bullshit fantasy about clean defenses aimed at attacks that don't happen, start with how the knives are used and the logic of violence.  

Someone coming at Teja with a knife won't be wanting to kill her, not right away.  The threat will want a compliant victim and will be looking to hurt and dominate if necessary.  Most of the solutions in that scenario happen early, with prevention or action before the victim gets isolated.  If not, the dynamics are close, brutal and the defender is someone who has likely already been emotionally destroyed and is now looking at physical death.

Someone coming at Mo or me will be an old enemy and it will be fast, brutal and from behind.  Solo if they want a reputation, otherwise not.  Head or right arm controlled.  Extremely close range.  There are no high percentage options from that, but there are a few that are better than zero.

Some stuff will be included about the knife as a rage attack (that stupid figure four armlock from old-school JJ actually works beautifully against an enraged person doing the over-hand stab) and possibly armed EDPs.  A section about the weapon as a dominance display.  A last section about not stepping into shit: when not to get involved as a third party, how to tell if you are in an area with a weapons subculture.  Stuff like that.

Partially thinking out loud.  Partially a taste of things to come. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Communication, Violence and the Triune Brain

Thoughts triggered by the comments on the last post.

First of all, don't get all weirded out by the triune brain theory.  Yes, most psychologists don't recognize its validity (always be suspicious of books on the brain written by famous astronomers) but it is a model that works and helps make other concepts easy to grasp.
Here goes:

There are three levels of your brain and they go to violence for entirely different reasons and, in most cases, the types of violence they trigger are completely different.

At the oldest level of your  mind, the part that we share with most vertebrates (and hence we call it the Lizard Brain in Conflict Communications) violence is triggered by a fear of immediate death.  This is the classic fight/flight/freeze reaction and freezing, (not fighting) is the most common.  The fighting usually starts, in the animal world and in ours, when the threat actually bites.  It is a deep part of your brain.  It is not a part touched by your intelligence, your beliefs and knowledge of strategy and tactics or your training.  If this level is triggered, it will be the blind flailing and maybe biting of a panicked animal.  None of your skill will come into play.

We spend most of or time in our social/emotional brains.  We think we are being logical and thoughtful.  In reality, we are trying to stay in the good graces of an imaginary tribe and make sure that things never change (more on this a little later).  The violence at this level rarely gets physical, when it does it is (with only two exceptions) designed NOT to injure.  Social violence is all about sending messages: You are not one of us.  You broke the rules.  This is my territory.  Treat me better.  I am superior to you.  Aren't I cool?

Because of that, social violence has rules.  It is designed not to injure (seriously, people, the over-hand punch to the top of the skull that even trained people tend to open a Monkey Dance with is far more likely to hurt your fist than the other monkey.)  It requires the message to be acknowledged.  That's a big one.  From spanking to execution, punishment violence requires a statement of remorse or our (the punisher's) monkey brain is not satisfied and we want to escalate.  When someone backs down from the dominance game at the lower levels of the MD but then says something insulting as he walks away, the dance is back on and worse.

This drives a lot of the way social violence happens: there must be a justification, and the threat will get in your face screaming insults hoping you will scream one back so that he can blame you.  It starts eye-to eye (or in punishment violence sometimes in a submissive posture).  The violence escalates from pure social (talk, from gossip to insults to threats) to display and then to pain, then to cosmetic damage.  Almost never to serious injury or death.  When it does go to death (only two types within the tribe) it is savage, a venting and a display.  It is still communication.

Almost every aspect of fighting this way is inefficient, if not stupid.  Being in front of the guy?  Using techniques that do minimal damage?  Letting him set the end-game by submission signals?

This is the default value.  Our minds spend the most time here.  In almost any conflict with another human we will instinctively and unconsciously default to this value.  It takes an act of will or experience to NOT fight socially.  I have yet to see a training that overcomes this instinct (though many say they do-- look at videos of force on force training from almost any school and you will still see these defaults.)

The human brain solves problems.  It is intelligent, wise and can make the world a better place.  Humans, despite their beliefs, spend almost zero time in this part of their brains.  "No, not me!"  Really?  Everyone has a sure-fire plan to be (fill in the blank, rich or famous or solve a major problem).  Almost no one does it. And the plans are good.  If you were to make a plan (human brain) and simply execute it, you could make your life better at every level.  The mechanisms are well known (read "Think and Grow Rich" for the blue print).  They are extremely reliable and effective.  Very few people do them.

Because everyone has a voice in the back of the head saying, "That will never work.  Who do you think you are?  What if you fail?  People will laugh.  What if you succeed?  Your friends will resent you."  That voice is the Monkey Brain and its one goal is to preserve your place in a tribal structure that went extinct thousands of years ago.  The monkey brain is older, more powerful and trumps the human brain.

This post isn't about self-improvement, however.  It's about the flavors of violence.  

Violence coming from the human brain is about solving problems.  It is about gathering resources as safely and efficiently as possible.  Your monkey brain wants to end the fight with the other monkey in a position of submission.  Your human brain knows to start a fight with the other monkey in a position of helplessness.  Violence from this level is not about winning.  It is about subduing or destroying and there is no value in the other monkey knowing who did it or how.  If they know how or who, you have given up information.  You human brain knows that it never serves you to give up information.

(And right now as you feel yourself come up with counter-examples and what-ifs, taste the feeling in your brain.  That is the Monkey, your limbic system, chattering using logic that sounds valid so that you can discount information that might weaken it.  Savor the feeling so that you can recognize it later.)

Human level violence is quick, efficient.  Close/hard/fast/surprise. The resource/victim/problem never gets a chance.  Either physically or mentally (a well timed threat works just as well as physical violence with fewer complications) the action is literally overwhelming.  It is never about the threat as an individual or person.  It is about solving the problem.  Getting money for drugs to a robber or serving a high-risk warrant for an entry team.

Most people never, in their entire lives, break out of the grip of their own monkey brain to experience this.  They know they can. They know how to.  Some are told their training is all about this (and this is where WingchungIncas' comment is extremely relevant).  Saying the words is one thing.  Practicing the techniques (which boil down to cheating at an astronomical level) and giving yourself permission to do things that violate your monkey protocols... without those pieces it's all just words.

You can utterly destroy bigger, stronger and better trained people... but you can't outfight them.  Those are qualitatively different things.  And as long as you are in your monkey brain and can't flip the switch (to either human for skill or lizard for ferocity, or both for something really special) you WILL be trying to fight as communication and, against a predator, you will lose. 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Switch

Everyone has a range of skills and abilities.  That's too obvious to write, really.  Let me give a concrete example.  I have a couple of friends I play with.  Health issues aside, I think one has slightly more combative skill than me, one slightly less.

The difference in skill doesn't matter a damn bit.  If either of these guys chose to go lethal, there would be too much damage done in the initial instant for me to recover.  At that level (and it doesn't actually take much skill) the ability to flip the switch is everything.

It's an easy thing to say, it's easy to believe that you could decide to flip the switch, but most don't.  They either freeze entirely or they stick in Monkey Dance/dueling/fistfighting/social conflict mode.  Those are all the same thing (as are sparring and sport at any level).  They are qualitatively different than what I'm talking about.

The first time you slaughter an animal, maybe every time, there is an emotional content to it, but it is not the same as fighting a person.  If you are going to chop the head off a chicken, you don't need to get mad or be righteous or make it personal or go through any steps.  It's a chore.  You just do it.

Most people cannot just kill a person.  They need a reason and a justification (two separate things).  Most need a ritual of blame and challenge and it's not even enough to take the guy out but they need the victim to see who did it.  That's human on human stuff.  When you flip the switch all of that is just wasted time and energy.  It also makes you very difficult to predict or defend against because humans depend on the ritual in other people to keep the violence social.

There's a lot in that last little thought, including the 'werewolf problem:' If someone can flip that switch with no warning, one of the deepest social conditionings, what else can they do?  What can stop them?  Can anything control their behavior?

I think the reason a lot of skilled martial artists don't ping my radar is that I don't sense this switch in them at all.  One told me years ago about the beast inside him, how he had once felt this awesome killing rage.  He feared that emotion.  What I heard was that even under extreme rage and fear he did absolutely nothing.  No matter what skill he had, he was and never would be any threat to me.

The Hulks of the world ("You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.") don't scare me.  They aren't a problem.  You will almost always see them coming, they will give plenty of warning and they will fight like anyone else in a Monkey Dance.

It's the ones who can approach violence as an unpleasant chore, something to get over with quickly and efficiently who are dangerous. The ones who can decide to flip the switch.  Who know the difference between fighting another person and simply slaughtering them and can choose.

Note:  Slaughtering is an example because it is something we do to animals and can relate to.  A professional can also flip the switch for handcuffing or taking some one out at a non-lethal level... I just didn't want to cloud the example with all you twisted people combining livestaock and handcuffs in your imaginations.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Easy For the Bad Guy

Self-defense is what happens when you are losing.  Think that through.  If I attack you, clearly I'm not defending myself.  Simultaneously, if I challenge you to a fight (or you challenge me) that's not self-defense.  That's mutual combat.

"He started it!" is a grade school defense, it isn't a legal defense.

This has been coming up a lot, in the manuscript I'm working on with Lawrence, in various videos people have asked me to watch, in some training I am planning and the video shoot in September.  If you are defending yourself, it is because you are losing.

What does that mean?  That the bad guy picked the range and his position.  That he probably moved in such a way as to hamper your response (amazing how real knives are almost always used after grabbing the head or your arm and unbalancing and how few people practice against that).  That before you are even aware things have started, your structure is compromised and you have taken damage.

Whatever your best move is, how well will it work if you are already folded over with your wind knocked out, wedged into a corner and with the bad guy riding your closest arm and slamming strikes into the back of your head and neck?  'Cause that's the baseline, my friends.

And you can fight from there... but you have to practice fighting from there.  There are ways to use a compromised structure or the momentum of being slammed.

Bad guys have it easy.  Almost any technique from any system will work if you are the bad guy.  You can pick the range, the target and the orientation. From target shooting to soft arts, almost anything works if you can choose the when and where.  Only the bad guy ever gets to choose that.

Sparring or dueling is really a contest between two bad guys.  It starts at a range when there is a huge choice in how to close and where to close and what to do.  It's contested, (which makes it a contest) but the essence of being attacked is the utter lack of those kinds of options.

When we teach self-defense, we tend to forget this, teaching techniques from a solid base with clear vision.  When we pressure test in the ring we lack respect for how huge the difference is between prevailing in a contest and recovering when a human predator has stacked everything in his favor.

Distance, stance, blocking... that's stuff the bad guy will have time for, but probably won't need.  If you have all that, if you have time to get into a proper fighting stance or set up a shoot, you may not be the bad guy... but you can almost certainly walk away.