Sunday, October 30, 2011

Peace and Rehabilitation

In a couple of weeks I'll be doing a lot of panels for a local writer's conference. The usual stuff-- violence and bad guys. But they also put me on a panel on 'Peace'. I've been on that one before, with some of the same people. It puzzles me.

Peace is an interesting ideal, depending on how you define it. Like a lot of ideals, it's squishy enough that you can have other ideals directly opposed to your stated ends and throw enough words into the justification to miss the point.

The thing that gets me about peace activists is that peace is not a thing. It is the absence of another thing. Depending on how you define it, the absence of war or violence or conflict. Depending on how you define those, 'peace' ranges from a difficult improbability to an absurd impossibility. In any case where you are looking at an absence, you must look at the thing you want to remove.

You can't effectively work for peace without taking a good hard look at war or violence or conflict (or all three, depending on your definition). And not a knee-jerk, disapproving look, either. A good hard look at why, if something is so bad, it is so prevalent. Why, if something must be fixed, it is so endemic in the natural world.

It is exactly like any other group attempting to censor or ban any other thing. Prohibition was an ideal, largely put forward by self-righteous teetotalers. People talk about violence, it seems to me, the way that they talked about sex in the fifties. They don't. Most talk around it. If you have anything to say from experience, you are marginalized.

It kills dialogue. More to the point, it kills progress. Medicine advances as we learn more about disease. We solve problems by studying problems, not by meditating on an imaginary, problem-free end state. I guess, in a way, that is the defining difference between a peace-maker and a peace activist.

Couple of caveats. We all do this. If you consider yourself on any side of a line: conservative/liberal; atheist/christian/pagan; Cougars/Huskies; RBSD/traditional... and you cannot explain, with compassion and understanding ,why the other side may very well be right; if you've always been sure; if you've never felt that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you could be entirely wrong... then you are doing this. You are holding a belief (and rationalizing and reinforcing it) not because you are right, but because of a tribal identity. You are doing the same thing that you denigrate people on the other side for doing.

Also, this is not about peace or peace activists. I actually want to talk about criminals and rehabilitation. Not really about crime, but that may come up. That was all just a long preamble.

So let's get crime out of the way first. Not enough people look at it right. Crime fighting is an ideal, just like peace. And we won't make progress until we take a good hard look at why crime is prevalent. Which means acknowledging that it works. It satisfies needs. It's not just that there is little opportunity for honest employment in certain areas. There are damn few jobs, much less entry-level jobs, where you can make thousands of dollars a week, get automatic deference and an instant family.

Crime fighting is an attempt, instead of lowering the rewards of the criminal lifestyle, to raise the risks. Catch 'em, book 'em, hard time. You have to take a look, a hard look at whether that is a risk or even a punishment in this subculture... or just the way rugby players think about the occasional injury. I don't think surveys will help... but I recall the young man about to be transported to prison for the first time at the tender age of eighteen. He was excited. In his family, doing time in prison was the rite of passage to manhood. Jail didn't count.

And this is where we get to criminals. We look at them from our point of view and our world. Most of the things that make a career criminal would be and are profoundly dysfunctional in polite society. So we look at our world and us and the criminal and try to 'fix' what is 'broken'.

There is nothing broken. For the most part (possible mental illness and stuff aside) the serious criminal is not incomplete. There is no pathology. He is perfectly adapted for his world. The things that we think of as normal and good, the things we try to instill when we rehabilitate, might be profoundly dangerous behaviors when he goes back to his old haunts and sees his old friends.

We pretend we are fixing a person, but in reality we are trying to reshape him into a person that makes us more comfortable. Altering a human for our purposes, not his. In the process making him more likely to die in his natural environment and he damn well knows it.

The few people I know who have truly rehabilitated themselves, started by deciding they wanted to live in the non-criminal world. That's rare. If you become an adult in almost any environment, that becomes your comfort zone. That world makes sense. You know the rules. The eighteen-year-old mentioned above knew the rules for prison far better than he would ever know the rules for college.

Despite the fact the stakes are higher in the criminal culture than in college, he felt safer (we all do) in the place where he knew the rules. Where he could blend in and knew how to behave.

Same as if someone insisted on teaching you the proper way to dine and converse based on diplomatic functions. It's not going to help you and will hurt you at your bowling league's nacho feed.

There is another factor in rehabilitating successful criminals that is hard to get over. They know they were raised in a dangerous environment. They believe, with justification, that many of the people trying to fix them would have died in that environment.

Tell me truly, have you ever changed anyone who already thought that he was smarter and better than you?

Raised in an environment where reading and manipulating people are far more valuable skills than getting along, the average criminal is better at reading and manipulating the people trying to 'help' or 'fix' than all but the best therapists. When you have consistently conned PhDs and psychiatrists, the best that civilized training can produce, it's natural to feel superior.

And this ties back to violence and peace-- it is hard to convince someone who sees violence as a tool that the peaceful way is better when he knows that he can have you, the product of a peaceful (and in his eyes weak) world on your knees begging to give him what he wants. He can't help but see that as the weak trying to make everyone else weak to feel safer. Rabbits trying to talk coyotes into giving up their teeth.

There are definite drawbacks to the criminal life. Many die young. Those that don't have no one to care for them as they age, except the prison system. There are profound drawbacks to the lifestyle. The criminal just doesn't look at the drawbacks-- in the exact same way that none of us look at ours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Search of Clarity

I'm working on the manual for talking down EDPs (Emotionally Disturbed Persons) and I pretty much have to do a section on what to do when it goes bad. This will be an e-book, since it is far too short for print publishing. Since it's an e-book I want to avoid pictures. They really mess up the formatting.

Is this description of a figure-four leg lock and seal position handcuffing clear?

The figure-four leg lock is also useful. Any technique used on the knee joint, especially if it relies on pain, will have a risk of injury. To apply the technique you place the threat’s left ankle directly in the hollow of his right knee (if I have to tell you the directions can be reversed, you probably aren’t bright enough to be literate anyway). The right knee is then flexed (bent) which both traps the left ankle and puts pressure on the knee such that it can be snapped.

The farther towards the toes you apply pressure, the better leverage you have. Many threat will be able to simply kick you off if you don’t apply good leverage. Almost all will be able to kick you off if you try to cross the legs at the ankles instead of putting the ankle directly in the knee joint.

You do not need to control this hold with your hands. In the example above (right knee locked, left ankle trapped) I kneel with my left knee outside of the threat’s butt, the threats right foot in the crease of my thigh and my right ankle hooked behind the threat’s trapped left ankle.

I learned the hook trick because the only person I’ve ever had escape from the figure four was a very small, wiry and quite dangerous mentally ill female who had a thing for stabbing people. She just did what looked like a military low crawl and pulled herself out of the lock.

This is an excellent unhandcuffing technique and a very good hands-free control hold. If the threat will not give up the hands for cuffing, if they ‘turtle,’ you can reach under their face (fingers flat to prevent biting, just like feeding a horse) and use the pressure point under the nose at the base of the bone to extend the spine. They will put their hands on the ground to support their own weight and you can simply yank one of the support hands back for cuffing.

After experiencing this, most NTs will voluntarily give up the remaining hand. You may have to do it twice for EDPs.

'NT' in the above paragraph means 'neurotypical' short hand for not an EDP. It's explained elsewhere in the handbook.

Clear enough to do?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Never Seen Florida

I've been here for two days and I still haven't seen any of. It's easy to joke with K: "Been to some of the coolest cities in the world but they all look like sweaty gyms."

Red-eye flight. Meet Rick Brumby, who is a thoroughly cool guy. Check into the hotel. Explore the grounds. Shower. Try to nap. Get up, go to the local police academy to teach Conflict Communications. Nargilah and late dinner with Dan G. Back to the hotel. Try to sleep. Up too early. Go to the business center to make copies. Meet Rick in the lobby. Return to the training center. Teach an introduction to violence. Teach part two of ConCom. Dinner. Hotel.

Too tired to write, but I don't want to sleep just yet.

Anyway, been in Florida for two days, haven't seen anything yet. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe I'll find a quiet place and write and drink coffee.

Working on the "Crisis Communication with the Mentally Ill" book. It will be too short for print, so expect an e-book fairly soon (finally). This one's disjointed, more a series of tactics than a coherent strategy. That's okay, I guess. Can't see all patterns at all times for all things. But it should help a lot of people.

The hotel has over three acres under glass with an a alligator lagoon and a small schooner. There is an artificial thunderstorm playing above my head right now. They tried to make the atrium like wild Florida, but air-conditioned and without mosquitos.

Good mix of martial artists today. Most had extensive experience. Lot's of sweat. Well, a little anyway. George Mattson showed up, and I did give him grief about his pink polo shirt... but he is one of the Old Dragons and it is an honor just to be in his presence. I also got to meet Phil Peplinski, who founded the original "Come Get You Some" website. He also really doesn't mind tangling it up and going for eyes. I'm not really sure what a cockle is, but it warmed the cockles of my heart.

The class ran long and just blended it in with the 'Violence' module of ConCom, and that worked pretty well. The information is pretty seamless. That feels good, it means that there is a skeleton underlying the words. It also means that there is a curriculum in here somewhere.

Have been getting pressure to set up a curriculum and create an instructor's class for this. Looking at a two-year date. I have quibbles and hesitations. The essence is teaching to think for yourself. The second that becomes dogmatic you have failed catastrophically. It is also teaching people to stand up, alone, in fear... something I feel is countert-intuitive to a world of Instructors and Senior Instructors and certifications...

But you know, being afraid of failure is one crappy excuse. It's also about facing fears, so that's something I just have to do. More later.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I expect this post will come off as esoteric and unfocused and confused-- but that's okay. I'm looking for answers to messy situations so I'd be a fool to expect clean answers.

"Pocket structure" has been coming up a lot. A little preamble:

1) You only get to use your killer self-defense skills when you are losing. If you are winning at the outset, you're probably the bad guy.

2) 'Losing' generally means that you are already hurt or injured, your structure is likely compromised, you may not be able to see, and the threat is in a position of his choice.

3) Threats aren't stupid (at least about this.) If he had any inkling that you might turn things around, he would have picked someone else. So expect him to be bigger and stronger. And it probably won't be his first rodeo.

4) None of the above applies to Monkey Dancing.

It's obvious that you need to work this scenario. You need to learn to hit hard from compromised structure and to deliver power to things that would normally be dead zones. Last post mentioned in passing a way to throw a good elbow to your rear flank.

Part of this is pocket structure. I think most martial artists have an idea of what structure is. It is the bone-to-bone connection between target and the ground. It doesn't generate power, but the better the structure, the less power is lost. Almost anyone can hit hard enough to do damage, but when you see the 240 pound power lifter who can't hit as hard as the 160 pound woman who has a little boxing training, structure is at least part of the reason.

Pocket structure practice is just putting yourself in bad structural position, like bent over with the threat pressing your head down and one side against a wall, and finding where you can align joints to still deliver power. This is one of the esoteric parts, hard to put into words: you find the arches instead of the lines that most people rely on with good range and you also tendon-hook to the back of the joints (that's what it feels like to me) instead of lining up the bones. That's pocket structure.

There are also pockets for power generation. You can use the Dempsey hip-twitch while lying flat on your back, mounted, and get almost your full power into a hook punch. It's just a matter of lifting your off hip an inch or two and then snapping it into the ground with your punch. It's creating a pocket of space so that you can generate power.

Pockets for mobility as well. I'm not nearly as flexible as I used to be, so it sucks when I try to demonstrate this, but Dave Sumner, my jujutsu sensei, had a full power high kick that he could use from the clinch without losing eye contact. It was a lead leg rear kick, so it hit like a mule. The key was clearing the off hip back and away to leave room for the chamber. A mobility pocket.

This, of course, got me thinking about pockets of time. One of the huge keys to defeating bigger and stronger people is to use time and information better than they do. Information first, since it doesn't directly (as far as I see right now) relate to pockets:

If you are outmatched physically, you must be significantly better at reading the situation than the other guy. If you are being blitzed, one of your few chances is to be able to read exactly what is really happening and how to use it. Someone grabs you from behind to slam your face into the pipe above the urinal you must be able to read where every bone in his body is and his current momentum and any shift in center of gravity that presages momentum change. You must be able to do this instantly. You have to know where every corner and hard object and reflective surface and slippery place you can use is located. All instantly.

You see why I consider blindfolded fighting to be a fundamental skill.

Back to pockets. You also need to be able to find or create pockets of time that you can use. Threat smashes your head into the pipe and pulls back to do it again... that instant, from contact through pull-back to centering to forward slam, is a tiny pocket of time where you are not taking damage and if you have the nerve and the skill, you can use it all.

Maybe. And this hits the essence of the teaching problem. I know this is possible. This is how I've done it and others have done it. When the math looks bad (Ralph jumped by an ambush artist, 20 years younger, stronger, faster) the ability to create and exploit time, to know what is really happening is the difference between walking away and not.

But can it be trained? I can show all the pieces. Let people play with and see how it works. Develop the skills and attributes. But when the shit hits the fan, it seems some people act and some don't. Most act with experience, but is that learning or just natural selection of a sort? Those that don't act either get injured or find another line of work.

If you are smarter, cooler, more aware and more efficient it makes up for a lot of size and strength. Those are the attributes you need to utilize most of the pocket concepts. But how many people can stay cool under assault? Or can you train it such that it is just a natural and obvious way to think and move?

Leaving for Florida tomorrow. Hope to meet some of you in person there.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Since you asked...

Read this first, if you haven't already. It's the basics of how I teach power generation. The drop-step falls under the category of power stealing. It is very simple. It is also counter-intuitive and violates a lot of what martial artists are taught from day one.

The drop-step is as simple as falling. Ernie described it pretty well in the comments of the last post, but I glitched on some of the words, so here's my take.

Stand with your feet a little over shoulder-width apart. Lift one of your feet. You will fall. You will fall quick and hard with absolutely no telegraph. Most of you, especially trained martial artists, won't be able to do it.

We've all been taught from our first class to never, ever lose our balance. And so before we 'fall' we subtly shift our weight to one side before lifting the foot on the other side. That creates a telegraph and, because the Center of Gravity is now just barely out of the base, changes a violent fall to a slow topple.

If you can just lift the foot, nothing else, trusting to get it back under you before you land on your face, you will move with great speed, power, and no telegraph. That's freaking useful.

My training trick (because I'd been taught to always keep balance too) was to try to touch my left knee with my right foot as quick as I could. Or reverse the left/right. All same.

It's not a step. It's not a leap or a lunge. The effect you want is of a table that suddenly has two legs removed. Just fall.

You can add lunge dynamics to it, and that is one of the reason that fencers are so freaking fast. But the lunging leg adds after the fall. Other than the natural bend in the knees, you don't load the lunging leg. That's the telegraph and it slows you down. That lunging leg can also steer you a little.

Steering might be important because the natural direction of the drop-step is along your strong line, the line you get if you draw a line between your feet. You want that strong line pointing in a useful direction (towards the threat for impact damage, obliquely towards the threat for damage + position.)

You can also, for the record, go straight down by lifting both of your legs. There are times where that is very useful. The stupid-looking move of drawing fists to hips and dropping into horse stance is one of the few motions that can generate a lot of power (concentrated on an elbow thrust) to the rear flank dead zone.

All of your normal power generation, hip action or hip twitch, whip action, dead hand, ballistic, structured ballistic... whatever you do, can usually be stacked with a drop step for a big increase in power. When you hit, though (and this is another thing that contradicts some training) you want your attacking weapon to hit the bad guy just before your foot catches you. If the foot hits first or at the same time, that's a certain amount of kinetic energy going into the floor instead of the bad guy. In efficient. I think the emphasis on simultaneous impact of foot and hand is a side-effect of the influence of fencing. Pointy swords require very little kinetic energy to do damage.

Ernie's drill is good and I use it as well. Take a stance perpendicular (hips, feet and shoulders square) to a training partner. Have him throw linear strikes at your face. Fall out of the way. Gradually speed up. Once you are consistently falling out of the way, change the angle so that you are falling 45 degrees towards the threat, but still getting off line before the punch lands. Add a mirror block for insurance but do not rely on the block.

And if your training partner starts tracking your fall, have him target and shut his eyes before he punches.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Values in Sparring

This is a preview/think-out-loud for the print edition of "Drills" that should be out in 2012. The publisher wants added material, so that it can compete with the e-book version. That's fine. I'm going to add a section on sparring. Different types, different purposes.

The thing that hits me again and again about lots of drills is that what we are learning (or simply ingraining, creating a habit without any awareness) is rarely what we think we are learning. That's huge for instructors, too-- You may not be teaching what you think you are. There's a video out of some instructors 'woofing,' screaming horrible, rude things in student's (largely women) faces. The instructors are certain they are conditioning women to the emotional context of an attack. But the women are practicing, rep after rep, letting a threatening individual invade their space, take a position of physical and psychological dominance, and the women practice doing nothing.

Sparring, at any level, is a special case. Humans mistake intensity for truth. Things that trigger bigger reactions- fear or anger or exultation- simply feel more real than than the drudgery of day to day. In almost any given martial art, sparring is the most intense training methodology and feels 'more real' than any other exercise. Humans rarely question such a natural feeling. Most have never had their roulette table moment.

That means that any bad habits learned by sparring are learned deeply. And there must be bad habits. The essence of martial arts is the manufacture of cripples and corpses. If you have never crippled or killed anyone in training either what you do doesn't work or, more likely, you have also learned flaws with every drill. Those flaws are critical in any live training. Never forget that you are practicing at least as many reps of not hurting people as you are of hurting people.

Sparring is not a fight simulation. Maybe most types of sparring are intended that way and certainly people believe that they are, but the math doesn't work. At some point two oiled-up guys in speedos of the same weight getting together face to face without weapons at an appointed place (without obstacles) and time to work under an agreed set of restrictions somehow became 'reality fighting.' It's not, and if you feel a need to defend it as "as real as it gets" take a deep breath and think for a second.

So lets start there. MMA contact sparring/competition. It covers a lot of skills and it is pretty damn effective at what it does-- which is prepare you for MMA competition. I don't think that's it's real purpose, though. The real purpose is deeper than that. There has been a long evolution of coming up with the best venue for testing ourselves. Boxing and wrestling always tested the essence of manhood-- strength and speed and endurance and toughness and smarts. By making it broader, MMA added an incredibly valuable level of mental flexibility. MMA deepened how far you can go with strategy. At higher levels all contact sports are strategy sports. MMA took that to a new level. If you want to find out who you really are, MMA is the way.

There is lots in there that applies to self-defense. Same with any of the contact martial sports. People who get hit regularly have a huge advantage over people that don't (until the concussions start to add up.) People who actually hit moving targets are way ahead of people who hit air. The fact that it hurts... damn, people, fighting hurts. It shouldn't be a revelation to anyone. And pain is a great motivator to train harder.

It's good training, but it predicates on bad strategy-- equal people, weapons, techniques, location, no surprise. All that jazz. If this is your gig, be sure to spend some time working solutions when you give the opponent 50 pounds of weight advantage and your back. It can be done, it has been done. But if (again) you have this urge to come up with excuses about why it is impossible, you've confused the game (MMA) with the solution.

Similar stuff goes for all the heavy contact stuff. Boxers are formidable fighters because they are used to taking and giving hits. There is something fundamentally fucked up in martial arts if being 'used to taking and giving hits' is special. That's the natural environment of a fight, people. That said, there is also something fundamentally screwed up about a fighting style that has its own fracture. When boxers do use their skills in real life far too often their hands are shattered. Outside of the safety equipment (tape and gloves) the essential weapon of boxing is more likely to hospitalize or cripple the guy using it than the guy it is used on. That's a whoops. What does boxing develop? Courage, and that is huge.

Moving and controlling a body is one of the core skills of fighting. You will learn this in a grappling art (especially one with throws) better than anywhere else. It is huge and important. It makes everything else easier ("Position before submission!") Good grapplers/throwers will also teach you much of what you need to know to handle bigger and stronger people, especially if they are old-school enough to practice without weight classes. Definitely spend some time here... but it is not fighting. In a fight, moving and controlling a body is intended for another purpose, like escape or disabling. In order to get really good at grappling, people often forget the context-- bad guys and weapons and obstacles and "Why am I here?"

As a general rule, if your grappling changes a lot when the other guy has a knife, you were probably a little too caught up in the game side. Or, to phrase it another way: If you grapple differently when the threat has a knife you were probably doing it wrong when he didn't.

And then straight non- or controlled-contact kumite. This was the big epiphany in Minnesota, at least as regards sparring. Marc has a drill he calls the 3-2-1. I will probably misrepresent it here. For the pure version, work with him. But my understanding (or misunderstanding) is damn useful, so here it is:

There are ranges and positions where someone can stand and hit you without any telegraph. The threat has to be in range (drop-step exception) and have their limbs in certain positions. This is a code red thing, or what Marc calls "1". The bad guy can hit you in one motion.

For the most part that's not true. Even in range, most positions require you to shift your center of gravity (CoG) before delivering power (again, there is an exception for the drop step. I love the drop step). Marc calls this a "two". It will take two motions, a precursor and the attack itself, to do you any harm.

"Three" means the threat has to change his foot position (and the drop step, in certain positions turns all three to a one... very cool) as well as shift CoG.

I spent a lot of time in close proximity to very bad people. More than a few commented on how relaxed I was. It's powerful. Relaxation can be disconcerting, it makes the criminal think that you know something he doesn't. This was why I could do that. Not only could I tell if the bad guy could reach me, I knew, in advance, exactly what he would have to do or where he would have to shift his center in order to attack. I knew when I was safe and I knew exactly what to watch for should the threat try to move.

These are critical skills in point sparring. Minor, maybe, and nothing like what I though I was learning (timing and strategy and ...) But killer skills in the real world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It Was Sort of Awesome

Just got back from the Secret Giant Violence-Prone Play Group. Very cool.

First, the concept behind the VPPG:
KJ and I started ours a year or two ago. The original notice is here:

I've had a few people ask about joining who aren't from around here, which won't work really well. Here's the deal, and the format. Nothing is written in stone, so if you decide to form one, do it your way.

There comes a point in everyone's life/career where they should start running out of instructors, or at least start running into questions that the available people can't answer. It happens in every science, and that is how science keeps growing. Everyone, if you've been doing martial arts for a while, should have a 'mystery': "What are the principles behind X?" "What are my options if..." "Does technique Y or drill Q really help? What is it really teaching/ingraining?" "How do I teach ____?"

Stuff like that, and even more. If you don't have questions you might be in your comfort zone. Or brainwashed. Or maybe dead. If all of your questions can be answered by your available resources, you need to get out more. That's my opinion.

So the idea behind the original VPPG was to get together people we respect from the widest variety of backgrounds possible. Not a lot of people-- any group that is willing to play at that level will be pretty small. We get together when schedule allows (rarely, right now, since two of the other key members have regular jobs and I'm traveling most weekends).

The format goes like this, "Kevin, what are you working on?"
"Well, I've been trying to figure out how to..."
Then we all brainstorm it.
Then we go bang. Pressure test. Scenario. What-if. Levels of contact matter because there are some things that can only be evaluated at certain levels of contact... so it has to be a group that we trust for everything from judgment to contact to first-aid skills.

When we are all good and sweaty, and maybe have some insights or (gasp!) answers, we go back to the circle and the next person kicks out a question.

Question, brainstorm, bang. That simple.

R&M (we never really discussed how secret the secret VPPG last weekend would be, so I won't use names) asked me months ago if I could set up a perfect VPPG, who would I want?

Two very different reality instructors. Two top eclectic practitioners. Two weapons guys. Two super-traditional.*

M offered a venue, R pressured me to set a date...and with about two months lead time, I sent out invitations. The group of eight I envisioned was a group of five. Which isn't bad for the phenomenally busy people that were invited.

Two days and nights in a remote piece of northern California. Hikes, shooting, brawling and brainstorming. It was sort of awesome. I got to play a little and talk extensively with someone I've admired for a long time. Got to look at the thought process behind his teaching (for almost everyone, how and why they teach is far more valuable to me than what they teach.)

Played flow. Brainstormed operator problems, and having operators and martial artists there made for an interesting synergy because each worked really hard to make sure the other side understood the underlying problems. Got called on some of my own bullshit, "You say it's a bad habit to practice moving straight back and yet you love fencing. Isn't that pretty linear?" Touche.

I think everyone left with pages of notes, plans, new ideas. Some got answers and I think everyone found a blindspot or two.

So my legs are sore, face sunburned, and a new scratch is scabbing nicely. Very nice.

*Which is another blindspot. I have access to some pretty extraordinary sport MAs and it never occurred to me to add two of them. Hmmmmm.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Obsolete Technique

Used to be, back in the day, (imagine a reedy, old-man voice) we sometimes had to go in on combative inmates without weapons or armor.

For whatever reason, you had to pull a guy out of his cell. Used to be for any disciplinary reason: he was tearing things up or making so much noise the other inmates couldn't sleep. Nowadays, we would just let them vent. In order to be a Threat, a person must have Intent, Means and Opportunity to hurt you. Going into the cell would give Opportunity, the third element. We would be responsible for making him a danger. So only self-harm (for which there is always Opportunity) really justifies entering.

So the tactical problem, back in the day, was that you would have to go into a concrete cell through a standard (except for the steel reinforcing-- standard sized) doorway. On an inmate who can see you clearly, is completely prepared for you, may have weapons, sometimes made armor out of blankets and occasionally soaped the floor. Commonly in a boxing stance just inside the door.

Even in Corrections, at least in our system, this is an obsolete problem. But before the Team and pinning shields, when no one was allowed to carry OC (pepper spray) or Tasers, it both common and dangerous. An unarmed or semi-unarmed classic 'funnel of death' problem. Only one person could go through the door at a time...

It's obsolete even for Corrections. Enforcement always had force options available, so this never was an issue. For citizens, there is no intelligent reason to close the distance on someone who is prepared to fight you. That makes it a remarkably useless technique, but technique isn't the point. It's all the nuances that made it work that apply to everything.

What follows is the first actual technique I came up with as a DT instructor. Sgt. Gatzke presented the problem.

It's simple, really. Hands up, non-threatening, you approach while talking. As you get to the Critical Distance Line you drop-step hard and fast, forward and very slightly off-line to his lead side, pass/parry the lead hand and voila, you are at his flank or behind him, out of the danger zone and with a plethora of options.

Approaching, hands up and non-threatening. Hands are in some version of the Fence (as described by Al Peasland who learned it from Geoff Thompson). Lots of people screw this up. If you look angry or tense, like you are ready to fight, not only will the threat have a better chance of clocking you when you make your move, the tension will slow you down. You must carry yourself like you believe talking will defuse the situation.

The second killer little detail is that you must walk unnaturally. Humans are direct-register animals, like cats. When the left foot goes forward, the right hand goes forward. In this instance, your right side moves together. Done fluidly enough, I've never had a threat notice.

As you get to the critical distance line. You must be able to read exactly when the Threat can reach you. Most of the ones I've used this on seemed to have boxing backgrounds and I needed to know exactly when I was coming in range for the jab. You had to be able to read when any shift in feet or center of gravity altered the critical distance line or loaded a different limb.

You must time it so that you will cross the Critical Distance Line with the mirror side. If the Threat is in a left lead, you must cross the CDL with your right hand and foot. That makes the distance for your drop-step and parry as short as possible. Short distance makes for better speed.

And you must be smooth. If you try to adjust your footing on the way in, the walk will be unnatural and the Threat will know something is up. You can't stutter-step or skip to get to the CDL with the right foot forward.

While talking. Sort of. You also want to judge the distance and speed of approach such that when you cross the CDL, the Threat is talking. Not critical, I've made this work on a number of Threats who were stone silent and watchful. But if you can get him talking there will be an additional delay, just a fraction of a second, before he figures out what is going on. For that matter, look at everything going on in this technique and see how much of it is about shaving fractions of seconds. Talking guys have slower reflexes.

Drop-step. A good drop-step is an incredible power and speed multiplier. Unless you can throw yourself to your feet from a push-up one handed, you fall harder than your arms can hit. Because gravity is always on, there is no delay and no natural telegraph. Unless you screw it up with hesitation movements or weird breathing or something, you will be moving before the threat sees, and probably finished moving before he can react.

The drop step is slightly off line. You don't want to fall into him or into his punch. You fall (and can add a fencer's lunge for more distance but DO NOT sacrifice the drop step and surprise by loading the lunge) to just outside his lead foot. The angle takes you off line of jabs and crosses. The drop tends to protect you from high hooks and roundhouse punches. Low hook you would have seen coming from his hand position at the start.

The drop step has to be practiced, by the way, and I've seen some very odd things called drop steps.

Pass/parry his lead hand. I learned it as the mirror block decades ago. Hard to describe in print. Basically, both open hands make part of a circle. The lead (right hand for this example) has the palm to the left and comes from belly button to ear, ending with the back of the hand right near the left ear. The left hand, palm facing right, follows from the other rim of the circular action.

You don't block. Ideally, your drop-step was just enough out of line that the punch, if it happens, missed with no contact. The mirror block is just a form of insurance, with the added benefit that that the left hand will come in contact with the leverage point at the distal end of the humerus. Especially if you have practiced forearm rolls, you will have the leverage and power to completely turn even a much larger man.

Oh, and trained karate guys tend to screw this up because they point their fingers up like a shuto block, which costs them four inches compared to the far more comfortable technique known as a handshake.

This all puts you in his dead zone, that special place on the rear flank where it is very difficult for him to apply power. You have force options ranging from a simple off-balancing push (or an ear-splitting scream I guess, if you want a very low force option) through spine controls, joint locks, damaging and crippling strikes all the way up to lethal force.

Again, don't nut up on the technique. It's obsolete anyway. Just as in breaking two fighters apart there is a lot more to think about than just the technique. How people walk naturally and how to exploit that. The need to train your eye for reading range and balance shifts. Application of gravity for speed. How communication affects reaction time. Lots of stuff.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Minnesota Mini-Debrief

First of all, it was a great week. Eight days of training, 10-12 hour days except for one (that was just eight). Except for ConCom, this was the first time Kasey, Marc and I have watched each other teach our material.

Even ConCom we split and did solo. Marc and I have done a few ConCom classes each over the last year and we usually talk afterwards. It's become really apparent that we get different questions from our students. Questions coming up are a sign that something is being missed. If one instructor is getting the questions, there is something in the presentation that is less clear... so it was a good chance to watch each other talk and see what and why.

Couple of things deserve whole posts:
True value in sparring (found it!) More convinced than ever that a lot of training paradigms are crappy for what we think they are and really, really good at developing abilities we aren't even aware of.

Pre- and post-internet language and instruction. Touched on this before, but a few things have to come together to get useful insight in certain areas. Not a lot of people in any given area have a complete package. Even fewer, before the internet, wrote anything down. That's created a network of private languages and theories for similar observation. Interestingly, it's also created an etiquette that feels natural to the people raised with it.

The ConCom issues are big, even and maybe especially in teaching. Saw excellent examples of that.

Symbiotic adversaries. Take two longevity-oriented groups who have their identities based on being enemies. Neither side can ever 'win' without losing. Neither can let the other win. Even when they agree, they must highlight the differences...

Do some things need to be taught? Or is just playing with the ideas better?

And maybe a technique post, an obsolete thing that I teach because of everything that goes into making it work.

There was more. Kasey could apply the body mechanics of sword to take-downs in a tactical entry because body mechanics don't change. We used different words but all three of us talked about structure and motion and core, smooth versus staccato or explosive, damage versus pushing or unbalancing. 'Gifts' became common shorthand. My esoteric sounding 'big wave' body mechanics are exactly the same as Marc's "It's just exactly like puking, bro." Make the connections.

DTs taught in coordination with force law and local policies. Knives the way bad guys learn them. Brainstorming each class of violence from the point of view of the perpetrator. We even got some range time. Five inch pattern at seven yards. I am way out of practice.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

East Coast Good News

Jeff Burger ("All it takes is all you got"), after years of teaching in other people's schools, has finally opened his own. It's in Peabody, MA (which is pronounced sort of like pibedy there).

This makes me happy and this is the big news I've been sitting on since I was in Boston, patiently (ha!) waiting for the official announcement.

Jeff is part of my ECBT (East Coast Brain Trust), one of a handful of people I go to for reality checks, advice and ego control. It's a pleasure to drink coffee with someone with such deep experience. Jeff stories: Once upon a time, a young karate kid decided to try kungfu, but it was right at the beginning of the kungfu craze and he was observant enough to notice that all the new kungfu schools were just new signs on old karate schools. "Hmmmm, what to do?" he thought. It seemed logical that he must go to China.

So he learned some Cantonese (completely wrong dialect for where he was going) and went. His first exposure was one of the tourist trap, state-run schools. It struck him as suspiciously easy. So he picked the best instructors and asked where they had trained...and he wound up in a far more dingy, far less comfortable training center with very few tourists and tons of hard work. He loved it.

Then he got curious and did the same thing in Thailand to learn Muay Thai. Again, not at one of the resorts pretending to be a school. At the place where the poor kids hoping to break out of poverty and into a little fortune and fame trained to give and take a beating.

So, in Jeff, you've got a guy who can and has taught pro MMA fighters how to improve their strikes and clinch work...and he can also teach stuff like rope dart and iron fan. And tai chi, but I hear he's looking for a yoga instructor to rent some time in his building. Evidently he can't teach that. Yet. If he decides to, he'll probably feel compelled to go to India.

Two other things. He's a former bad guy. Not super bad, but he's spent enough time in that strata that much of the bullshit in self-defense training won't get past his filters. When he teaches SD he is teaching how to deal with someone the way he used to be, how to deal with predators that he knows very well.

Last thing- unlike yours truly, Jeff teaches kids, and he (and Jess) are good with them. He's run a non-profit for years to get MA classes to kids who can't afford them (or, I guess, technically, to get the kids to the classes, but you know what I mean.)

He credits martial arts with giving him a reason not to become a criminal. He uses the K.I.C.K. program to pay that forward.