Monday, March 12, 2012

Rarefied Reality Checks

Tired. Two days, a total of nineteen hours of classes. Introduction to Violence and Conflict Communications. Then today, a beautiful hike and great talk with Scott Phillips, followed by another long walk and playing with the crew at Soja studios in White Crane Silat. Eerie (or maybe not) how much parts of it looked like Uechi.

That's catch-up. Here's what I want to write about: I had a long and wonderful conversation with a local (to the Bay Area) self-defense instructor a few days ago. She was intelligent and insightful and the conversation was wide-ranging and fun. I would link if A) she had a website and I knew what it was and B) I had her permission...

But I don't have her permission, because I didn't ask... and I didn't ask because this has taken a couple of days to percolate. Didn't think of it at the time.

I have no way to measure my own experience.

In Rory's world, groin strikes and nose strikes have negligible reliability. Of the dozens of times that I have taken full-on, well targeted groin strikes, they have only stopped me from fighting twice. One time that didn't stop me I remember quite clearly that I felt it about three minutes later, and it was the 'let me crawl into a corner and cry and puke a little' type of pain... but for three minutes, nothing. Using it on other people, not so sure. Simple fact was that under our policies, I didn't want to write a report about a groin strike. So I used it way more in training than in real life. That said, I found the flinch you draw when you fake a groin strike more reliable than one that made contact.

Nose strikes? Zero percent reliability. Even with a broken nose, I've never been stopped by a nose hit and I've never seen anyone else (outside of training) stopped, either.

But... this person is a good SD instructor with a long slate of students. In her world (and, granted, it is only about a half dozen of each) groin strikes and nose strikes are 100% reliable. She has had about six of her hundreds of students attacked by men and when they delivered a groin strike it was over. Done. She has not heard from a single student that the technique has failed.

Another group have used nose strikes. Again, no failures.

This is important. No one is wrong. I have my experience, and the experience of my officers and students. So does she. And we saw different things. No one is wrong.

So, questions.

I was dealing with hardened criminals willing to attack an officer. As a women's self defense (WSD) instructor, she was dealing with criminals who targeted women. Does the target selection (officer versus woman) indicate enough about the perpetrator to explain this discrepancy? Were the ones attacking me what some people would call 'highly motivated'?

Like a lot of people I am self-referencing and between fights and intense training I have taken a lot of damage. At a very deep level, I believe if something doesn't work on me it doesn't work at all. Is this valid? Is there any way to know how and why I've kept fighting and whether that is something to be expected or something unusual?

Should one always train for the worst case scenario? I was able, at different times, to test things against PCP freaks or experienced ring fighters or giving up 200 or more pounds. That became my criteria for reliability. I love that. I have very, very deep reasons to trust my stuff... but does the bar have to be set that high? If I had told those dozen women, "Don't bother with groin strikes or nose punches, they don't work" would they have been victims?


Anonymous said...

We teach the same as you, adrenaline is a wonderful thing. I'm not sure there is a 100% technique, but there are 90%ers. Groin is down below 10%. I'll take a nose if I can get it, but it is to make the eyes water and maybe interfere with some breathing.

Thomas M said...

Just a couple of thoughts:

How did the civilan self-defense fights end? Run away or control? What was the goal of the attacked person?

My first thought about your question was twofold: on the one hand a criminal attacking an officer is probably mentally prepared for quite some resistance. He may hope and plan to succeed fast but I think it won’t be too much of a surprise when this fails.
And most of the time when this failed you probably turned the tables immediately and went for some kind of takedown plus control, right?
So even if your hit had some kind of effect you "forced" the guy to stay in the fight. He couldn't just abort because of the pain and get away with it.
The same with you taking a hit - as long as you can manage to keep on your feet you probably won't lie down and see what happens. And retreating may be harder than getting done with it as well.

On the other hand, the attacker who goes for a civilian target probably has a pretty good idea in his mind on how the attack is supposed to go down. One that doesn't involve sudden intense pain.
The resulting freeze from the sudden resistance might have been enough to break free and get away. So the attacker probably wasn't forced by his former victim to fight on.
At the same time the pain may not have been enough to take him out completely in the sense of "I smashed his nose, he curled together on the ground, I sat down on top of him and waited for the cops"?

Just fishing in the dark with the limited information that I have.

Moreover I wouldn’t call your attackers only “highly motivated” – I’m pretty sure most of them were quite experienced as well, weren’t they?
Your surround gave you only opponents who already managed to end in prison.
The chances to “get” an attacker who is just committing one of his first crimes with such an amount of violence are probably better outside than inside of a prison…

About your final question:
If I had told those dozen women, "Don't bother with groin strikes or nose punches, they don't work" would they have been victims?

I don’t think so. Many roads can get you to Rome. They reached it their way and you took another route.
And yours seems to be a route that you took quite a few times and with lots of success.

It’s not like you would tell them: “don’t bother with groin and nose or anything else, fighting back is stupid anyway”.
Maybe your stuff would have worked even better. Or just with the same amount of success reached in a different way. Or maybe they couldn’t have pulled it off your way for some reason.
I don’t think it is black and white – and in a fight with somebody unknown with unknown skills and mindset working against you – how could there be any guaranties? But you already know and teach that, way better than me ;)

Wayne said...

I think it is the mindset of the attacker. Someone that has decided to attack an LEO is probably highly determined, and knows they are up against a trained individual(s). They most likely have full on adrenaline surging through their system. Plus what is the mindset of the criminal at this point? They have already been arrested? Going to arrest them again? More charges? They might as well see what type of fun they can have with you.

The ones that attcked a woman probably isn't expecting much of a fight. Sure they might expect some clawing and things like that, but a full force strike to groin or nose? That probably figured a woman couldn't do that. And this person probably wasn't planning on getting caught. Someone that is fighting back makes it more likely they will get caught so a good reason for them to get out of there.

Just my thoughts.

Kai Jones said...

Great that groin/nose strikes worked, but what if they hadn't? Maybe these were opportunistic attacks, and nobody this woman has trained has ever been attacked by a determined predator who wouldn't be deterred by a groin/nose strike. What if the victims had tried a nose strike and it didn't work, and they lost the advantage of surprise?

Charles James said...

Hi, Rory: Is it possible the attacker of women chose them because of the success rate and when confronted, like many cowards targeting women, was mentally shocked into not continuing the attack?

Is it possible in your case the criminal was not targeting an easy target therefore made the conscious decision to go the distance knowing it would not be easy and thinking they had the tools to win with you?

Anonymous said...

Attacker mindset should definitely be a factor for some techniques. Techniques that are discouraging for a resource predator might be encouraging for a process predator, just as one example.

Rory I want to say I appreciate your humbleness and open-mindedness here. I wish more self-defense "experts" could do this - so many of them think they have it all figured out and discourage students from their own discoveries.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing what's important is that thw women took agressive action. Nose hit, groin hit, throat hit, whatever. They didn't freeze, they didn't comply, they didn't submit. Hopefully they had more than one tool in their tool box so if hit #1 failed, they had some other choices to fall back on. As a woman, I hope I will fight not freeze, I hope I will have more than one option and see the opening - whatever it is - and take it, and I hope I will run as soon as I get a real chance to do so. So, maybe your both right... your both teaching fight/flight, your both teaching multiple potentially affective hits, your both teaching live, don't freeze, don't be polite.

Rob Lyman said...

I think you need to distinguish between the mindesets used in defensive tactics and self-defense.

Is curling up in a corner even an option for a CO? Ever? If you lost a limb, would you just sort of give up? Don't you try to weed out those kind of people in Con Sim so you don't have to go in and save their butts?

People who become LEOs/COs do it because they want to run towards the gunshots. Then they have that mentality reinforced by training and (hopefully) conditioning. So I would hardly expect your reaction to any given damaging event to be the same as some loser who goes around attacking women.

Sun Tzu recommended a general burn the boats his troops crossed a river with so that they knew forward was the only way out. Both literally and psychologically, when you're in the pod, you CAN NOT retreat. The only reason master control is going to open that door is to admit the "blue wave" (or whatever color your agency wears).

A rapist/mugger can retreat, and so he will if given a reason.

On the other hand, an inmate or street criminal also can't really retreat--because the cops are coming after him. So he's burned his boats, too, and he's going to act accordingly.

damkrantz said...

As you have said before Rory, it is chaos and one needs to learn to take their opportunities as they present themselves. Then learn to flow from one opportunity to the next.
Also, your reality is not everyone else's. I feel, as people have mentioned in earlier comments, that you are comparing apples to oranges. Is not violence a complex thing? :-D
I feel like if you get an opening, you should take it and use what it gives you. Flow to the next opportunity.
But then what do I know? I have never had to handle a situation past the deescalation stage.

Randy said...

It's a pretty slippery thing to try and quantify. Although it doesn't directly answer your question, looking at an individual, a situation and the skills to potentially manage it can highlight the relative success that someone may have in a given situation, relative to someone else (and from there to program training appropriate to the individual/scenario). Individuals are made up of cognitive, affective, motor and physiological attributes (CAMP). Violent situations are composed of CAMP constraints. Skills are composed of CAMP qualities. All three domains overlap, and influence each other. In a nutshell, what works in one environment may not work in another, what works in one affective state may not in another, etc. Within that framework, a kick to the groin may work reliably for a woman facing off in a direct assault; it may not if the attacker's attributes outmatch hers, if the assault is an unexpected ambush, or if the assailant is motivated/angry enough that affect compensates for physiology. Her chances are good if the situation offers favorable conditions, and if she is able to bring her attributes and skills to bear in an intentional, focused way; they begin to drop if the situation is unfavorable, or the attacker is able to leverage his attributes and skills against her unexpectedly.

Hertao said...

There are very few 100% empty hand techniques, and the few that exist aren't as easy to apply for many people...chokes for example take more skill to apply than a simple groin kick.

Regarding the groin kick/strike in particular, I don't recall ever kicking someone in the groin (in training) and not having them go right down. I've been kicked in the groin many times though, with very different effects. Sometimes it has caused me to stop right away, other times a few seconds later, sometimes longer...and the worst time I can remember, when it hurt to walk for at least a week after, it only made me angry and fight harder, to my partner's detriment. So I don't consider it a 100% technique for sure. It can work, but it can also make your opponent angrier.

I think the only techniques you can consider to have a very high probability of success, approaching 100%, are those that DAMAGE a person so that they cannot physically continue. But successfully applying them takes skill, and the application is never going to be near 100%.

Bottom line is that there are no easy answers, unfortunately.

mobiaxis said...

Conjecture might be interesting, but the facts seem to be these: groin / nose strikes do not always end the fight (neither does a knife, club or gun). Other than maybe an RPG, there is no 'magic bullet'. Conclusion: Do whatever is required to end the fight. If you run out of skills / 'tools', there might be a bad outcome - it happens. If everyone fully understood how bad things could go, self-defense training notwithstanding, perhaps they would ...stay away from 'bad areas' ...apologize even when not wrong away if they could.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that in most of your fights, both parties expected a fight.
In the attacks on a female, the attacker expected a victim.
Sometimes it isn't necessary to win the fight, it is only necessary to convince your opponent that there are easier targets. A 10% technique may be sufficient to convince them. Sometimes you have to subdue your opponent. Nothing short will suffice.
I think you are correct when you say neither is wrong; you are just looking at different dynamics.

Anonymous said...

I agree with one of the Anonymous statements. I think if a man is chosing his victim, he will go for someone who presents as a victim before he attacks someone who presents with confidence. That being said, when the woman fights back, she is no longer an easy victim. I think there is probably a second where the attacker is startled...and hopefully on the ground. D.Phelps

Anonymous said...

So, my HS auto teacher used to instill that if an engine doesn't turn over it is one of three problems. Those being fuel, spark or air. The obvious fourth you could add is if it has somehow been drastically and physically broken apart/damaged. Nose and groin cause pain. Pain is not really structural. It is not the elimination of something essential, but really more of an extreme discomfort. Call it a stressor, or tax on the machine's efficiency. It might dim the "spark", but it won't always shut down the machine. And, pain is not reliably universal anyway.

My grandfather fondly recalled his days playing semi-pro football in the leather helmet era. One of the ways to spot a rookie was to find the guys without broken noses. That was someone to exploit in the game, to target, to blindside. The guys that got hurt badly were the ones that just didn't see it coming. So, some important advice at the start of every season was to get the broken nose over with in practice least during the first game anyway. On the other hand, I’ve been knocked out cold by a baseball glove to the face when totally relaxed and distracted. Mindset must have something to do with how pain is received.

A few weeks ago I had to break up a nasty dogfight by hand. One was a big, very strong bulldog/pit mix. Knowing immediately it was my problem to solve, all I could do was reach into all that snapping teeth stuff and pull the two apart by the scruff of their necks. It was a chore, rolling around down on their level. I came away with some pretty deep holes in one hand. Like a lot of trauma, there was no “pain” pain until well after it was over. I was able to decide immediately to ignore the risk in the moment because it didn’t matter. That didn’t change what I had to do. Like others have said …no choice. So, I suppose that is highly motivated. If there was any way it wasn’t my problem, I might have just stayed the hell away from the whole scene. As it was, the kids and wife were screaming, the vet bill was going up by the second. This thing just had to be stopped ASAP.

Another (MA) teacher of mine liked to point out that the only sure way to take someone out of a fight is to either take away his/her air, or the ability to chase you down when you leave. And, to remember that even someone with broken legs can still shoot. I don't think the extreme levels need to be the baseline of protecting yourself. Not much in the way of opinion or plans is true disregarding context. And, I think one certainly needs to understand these things all apply to both the bad guys and us as the good guys. Can't ever let someone take away those essential elements. Consider how you’ll react when hit in nose or groin? Both do hurt. What would make the difference in terms effectiveness on the receiving end? When would that or would it not stop you? I suppose you really can only know if you’ve got personal references to draw from, (There was a good scientific study on pain in Sports Illustrated several months ago). Pain is your head and that is always personal.

I think this discussion is good recognition that levels exist, and those depend on what we bring to the game. Severe discomfort will be enough ...sometimes, especially when it is received relaxed, a surprise. These targets are good for that level. I don’t think they are nearly as reliable in front of a full fury of someone already intent on finishing the job. My own references I imagine to be as flawed as anyone else's. But, I would vote state of mind and motivation contribute very heavily, and their usefulness depends as much on your own ability to project a state of mind onto someone else.

-Billy G.

Steve Perry said...

" If I had told those dozen women, "Don't bother with groin strikes or nose punches, they don't work" would they have been victims?"

Good question, and unanswerable, of course. No way to tell. But if you told those women that now? Tricky, isn't it? Who was it said never allow some expert to substitute his judgement for your experience?

I mean, if it already worked for them and you tell them it won't ... ?

Always a problem translating from one operating system to another. Here you are, long-time male LEO who likes to bang and thump, with a shitload of experience dealing with felons, enough so you don't even spill your coffee or trip the hormones. Here is a woman with far fewer physical and psychological abilities in this arena, way less experience.

You can't make them who you are. Hell, you can't make me who you are. Best you can do is make them more of who they are ...

Anonymous said...

A cynical answer: there's "rape" and there's "date rape". In date rape no means yes...but a kick in the balls or a smashed nose still means no and really after that who is going to feel amorous...? c'mon...6 out of 6? Even if none were raped some number greater than 0 would have at least been beaten to within an inch of their life in anything other than a date rape situation.