Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Universals

I got to talk to CC.  An instructor here.  Does stuff.  Don't worry about it. He was talking about the necessity of getting students to make eye contact when they fight.  I usually teach the necessity of breaking eye contact. Hmmmm.

It's not even a disagreement and this is one thing (among many) that you really must understand in order to teach self-defense.  And I need to look at it harder as well.  I don't just teach a homogenous group (officers) any more.  I teach different people, many different people and each have skills and weaknesses, strengths as well as training holes.

Generally, I need to teach people to break eye contact.  Generally, CC needs to teach people to make eye contact.

CC teaches a wide variety of people.  Rank beginner up to some pretty specialized groups.  Teaching beginners, you have to break down a lot of conditioning.  Years and decades of being told not to be rude. Don't swear, don't spit, don't use nasty words and don't touch people inappropriately.  Almost everything that falls under the umbrella of self-defense is rude.  Injuring people is very inappropriate physical contact.  Setting boundaries is yelling at strangers.  CC notices, "How can you hit someone if you can't even look him in the eye?"  Perfectly valid.  Very true.

My usual student profile is very different.  The people who train with me tend to be experienced martial artists who are just realizing how little they know of violence.  One of the biggest hurdles to get them through is to break them of the habit of trying to win a game.  Most are trying to dominate an opponent, not neutralize a threat.  They fight, and fighting is extremely inefficient.  Taking a threat down-- whether deadly force or handcuffing or shoving to escape-- can be extremely efficient.  Because you don't care, it is just a job.  I know I have written it before, but there is a qualitative difference between the way a farmer butchers a hog and the way the same farmer will fight a person.

  • You don't need to get angry
  • You have a reason, you don't need a justification (you don't need to feel that it is a 'bad hog')
  • You don't give it a chance
  • You never let it be a fight
  • You are not trying to teach the hog a lesson
  • It is not a form of communication
You can bypass all this stuff with humans, just like with animals-- and it doesn't have to be lethal.  Simply efficient.  But most can't because we are so wired to treat interpersonal violence as some form of dominance game or rules enforcement.  It becomes about messages.

Because it is about communication, it is inherently inefficient at simply removing the threat.  If you have trained hard for years at a system of fighting, it probably hurts your feelings and threatens your identity that I call it inefficient.  I'm sorry for that, but the message is no less true and no less important-- pick the scariest baddest martial artist in the world.  Could you beat him in a fight?  Probably not.  Could you incapacitate him in under a second (more, with set-up time)?  If you can't, that is a failure of either imagination or understanding, having your brain locked into the irrational belief that fighting and removing a threat are the same thing.  If they are on the same continuum, you may be missing some huge truths.

So for my student profile, breaking eye contact is a first step to making this transition.  For CC, making and maintaining eye contact is a first step to being able to fight.  For people who have fought for a long time, breaking eye contact is a first step to another level.

It's not just here, and I have to be careful.  When I am teaching to one student or one group of students, the message may be entirely wrong for a different group, and they may be in the same class.  The class last night, this morning and the one coming up in thirty minutes are 80% female.  A lot of the material, particularly on adrenaline effects, are different for men than for women.  Usually, I teach the male effects and then the female differences as a coda.  (And had a great example of it after scenarios earlier today.) For this population, I should do it the other way.  But it is hard to remember.

Different people need to be taught different things.  It is getting more and more obvious that in this field you must teach the student, not the subject matter.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Questions That Bug Me

A little off-topic, but in a comment long ago, someone asked about the questions that keep me up at night.  Here are four. And none of them are all that important.

1) Why is it that even in languages written from right to left, the numbers are written from left to right?  First noticed it inBaghdad.  One of my translators said that numbers are written from left to right in all languages.  True?  Don't know.  Possibly, if the early writers thought of 24 as 'four and twenty' the flow would be in the same direction as the writing... but that's not how they do it in Hebrew, at least.  My memory is fuzzy on Arabic.

2) In the King James version of the Bible, god is addressed in the informal.  'Thee' and 'thine' are the familiar versions, 'you' and 'yours' the formal or plural.  It is, you will note, 'your majesty' or 'your grace' when addressing upper nobility.  It appears that god is addressed as an equal throughout.

A conscious decision to make a point?  An artifact of translating from other sources?  Possibly the grammatical rules at the time are not as I was taught?

3) Explosive power decreases by the cube of the difference.  In other words, to double the blast radius doubling the powder won't work.  Nor will squaring it.  You have to cube it.  It's based on the formula for the volume of a sphere, 4/3 x pi x r cubed.  (Really sucks not to be able to do superscript and notation.)  Which makes sense.  The force just doesn't increase a line or increase the surface area.  The force has to fill the whole sphere.

So why does gravity decrease as a square function?  Does that imply that it only acts on the surface of a sphere (where the two masses would be points) and doesn't fill the void in between?  A friend (Hey, Justin!) pointed out that this is true for other forms of radiation, such as light, as well.  Which to my mind broadens the question, not answers it.

4) Was the lance a one-shot weapon?  I'm not talking medieval jousts, but like lancers during the Napoleonic wars, cavalrymen mowing down infantry soldiers.  This is what I can't figure out:
Assuming a heavy horse gallops at about 22 mph (28 would, according to one source be the max; a quarterhorse approaches 40mph at short distance) the lancer is going to stick a relatively immobile target that has weight and mass.  The second the tip of the spear drops, which it will either due to the threat falling or because (relatively) the horse keeps going and the rider is above the target, that lance becomes an enormous lever arm.

Carried under the arm, like a joust (except impaling instead of blunted so the tip stops)  that's eight feet at least of leverage applied with the weight of the target at 22mph to just under your shoulder.  Dislocation or ejection?  Carried underhand, that same leverage is applied in a rotation on the same axis as some of the better wristlocks.  Overhand doesn't seem to be a problem but at least one source, (I believe it was "The Twilight Lords" about the Desmond Rebellions) asserted that the overhand position with the lance disappeared when stirrups were introduced.

So did lancers just stick people and drop the lance and revert to a secondary weapon?  Does that imply that the most expensive unit on the battlefield was essentially a single-shot?  Does that make sense?  Or was there some technique to stab and recover that I haven't been able to find?

This is the stuff I think about. None of these are important, but if you want to bang your heads against them, go for it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Mike Ball said, "I think I should teach self-defense the way I teach maths.  I start with an overview of the syllabus so that the students know where this is going to go..."

Mike's going to write a paper on that, so I won't get into it, but that one sentence pinged.  Hard.  If I were to write down what I wanted a student to become, where this was all supposed to go...

I don't most times because I get hung up on filling holes ("Those are great body mechanics, but the require more space that you can get under assault.") or the big mysteries ("Flipping the switch is the most important thing, can it really, truly be taught?")

So lets bring it down a notch.  Or up.  Where is this all supposed to go?

I want the students to be able to recover from shock, to deal with being outmatched physically.  I want them under anything but the most extreme circumstances to be able to pull a 'Bill the Electrician' and say, "Yeah, I seen this kinda thing before." (Very obscure reference).  To not just know the tools, but to understand them (and you can know an awful lot and understand nothing.)  And to understand the problem.

I want taking care of oneself to be recognized as one of the most natural things in the world and to be approached and understood and done with the minimum of artificial monkey-level bullshit gumming up the works.

It may be challenging.  It may be scary and dangerous and doomed.  But survival isn't difficult or complicated, not until we make it so...and then the complications make it less survivable.

Need to work on it, cleaning it up, defining terms, drawing a clear and specific mental picture... but this is the right question at this time.  Thanks, Mike.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Find Things On My Own

Yesterday was the rest day.  A train ride, with a little writing on the way, and coffee.  Rafal met me at the train station in Edinburgh, then a quick drop off to Mick's flat before Raf headed to work...

Then, on my own.  Late afternoon.  Edinburgh.  Rushed to try to see Edinburgh Castle before it closed.  Then proceeded with the quest-- to drink a scotch in a scottish pub.  The Bow Bar did just fine.  Something over 200 whiskeys.  No, I did not try them all.  But had a nice conversation with the barkeep and tried a couple...and as I sat in the warm afternoon sun lazily sipping on a hitherto-unknown and very fine Islay I thought I spied... could it be?  No!  Surely not.  All of my native friends had assured me that there was no such thing, not in Edinburgh...

But on a terrace above Victoria street, something looked very much like a narghila.  And the sign said "Hanam's Kurdish and Middle-Eastern Food."  You gotta be kidding me.  It almost made me rush the scotch.  Almost.

Masaw- the yoghurt drink but sweeter than it was in Sulaymaniyah.
Gosht kebab- was what I had been looking for for some time.  Ground, spiced lamb pressed over a flat skewer and served with flat bread.

It was delicious, and for one scary moment I was incredibly homesick for a place I only lived for a year.  Helped a german couple order and then fell into conversation with Khalid, one of the customers.  We talked and smoked for an hour or more.

Then a walk back to the flat, where I slept very, very well.
Today, Rafal took me with his kids to a pair of ruined castles-- Dirleton and Tantallon.  Beautiful.  Good place to hold off zombies.  Now I have to pack, sleep, and  wake up at 0400.  Piece of cake.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rocking On

Edinburgh, Swindon and the first of two days in Sheffield.  Great people.  The hosts, Mick Franklin, Andi Kidd, and Garry Smith have been extraordinary-- organized, friendly.  Down to earth and devastatingly  intelligent.  Wide experience in life, martially and the world.  Good times.

Naturally sleep deprived.  The sleep has been good when I get it, but there are so many better things to do, stories to hear, thoughts to explore... Some of which I won't remember until after I get some sleep.

The breakdown has been different than usual.  Sometimes trying to cram sixteen hours of material into a single day, or spreading things over two days.
So far-
Edinburgh-- Day one was trying to get the funnest elements of a two day class into a single day, taking it all the way up to environmental fighting and still keep it safe.  It felt so weird that I stayed after for three hours and went over more stuff with the people willing to stay, filling in holes that only really existed in my own mind.  A very long, solid day.  Followed up by talking until 0300.
         Day 2-- Conflict Communications.  Met a few people that couldn't make the first day.  Saw an old friend who was able to make it into town.  And left immediately from the class to catch a plane.

Swindon-- Met Andi, checked into the hotel, slept, woke and hit the ground running.  Day one we combined a condensed version of Ambushes and Thugs with the basic version of ConCom.  A ton of material.  And I set off a panic alarm groping for a light switch.  Sigh.  I'm a dork.  The second day, met with a very few hand-picked people at a nightclub called The Furnace.  Went over in as much detail as I could how to run scenarios.  Safety.  Purpose. Personnel.  Scenario design and execution.  Trouble shooting and emergencies.  Next year that club will be perfect for either or both an environmental fighting day or a scenario day.  Left right from the venue to the train station.

Sheffield-- First session was the same evening, so Garry met me at the train station, kept up a running tour-guide imitation all about the history of the area as we drove to his home and got some stew and coffee into me.  Then we went to play.  Good crew.  One of the karate guys was probably only 5'7" but  was one of the strongest men (great structure, too) that I've ever met.  One giant.  Wide variety of systems and styles.  Mike attended the Swindon session and came up here too, so I added one of the elements I skipped due to the compressed time.

And up this morning.  Another session tonight.  Looking forward to brawling in an equipment closet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Note from Scotland

Thirty hours on about 3-4 hours fitful sleep, then a two hour nap and finish the day and... 0700, in Scotland, having breakfast and sleep cycle fully adjusted to local time.  Feeling pretty good.

The first reviews on the "Facing Violence" DVDs are in.  I think David Silver did a great job editing it.  Three hours, covers most of the material.  I catch little places where I would phrase things differently.  It would have been nice to do a more packed mass brawl... but just for the short demo of an Articulation War exercise...  I think it's nice.

Thought for the day-- a friend with great ideas, all the right stuff, wants to get into teaching.  She has the skills and the perspective that so many lack, but like a lot of people, the perfect is the enemy of the good.  She is stressing over how to explain everything so perfectly that everybody can understand it.  It's not just her.  A friend who will not be named (but his initials are probably Marc MacYoung) has been driving himself nuts over making the ConCom book perfect.

To all the people considering teaching: There's no such thing as perfect.  Not perfect knowledge and not perfect communication.  That's just the way it is.

But here's the cool part.  That's not just okay, that's good.  Because no matter what you teach, no matter who you are, you aren't perfect either.  Which means whatever you give them, some of your students can and will make it better.

Give them the best skeleton you can.  The stripped-down, clean foundation of good knowledge and let them put the flesh on it and some-- maybe only a few, maybe many-- will create something significantly better than you have.  Because you aren't all that.  Do your best, let it go.  Your students will amaze you.
Three classes in Edinburgh over the next three days, then Swindon and Sheffield.  Then on to points south: Israel, Slovenia and Greece.
The Drills manual rewrite for the print version is in.  The final edit for "Campfire Tales from Hell" done and the manuscript sent to M&D to do with as they will.  I'll let you know when it's up.  Great information.

Working on something fun, under a pseudonym-- a collection of some of the stories I told my kids when they were growing up.  It's very clear that I was a terrible father, but "Horrible Stories I told My Children" is pretty funny (at least to me, but I was there.)
Edit-- After I posted this I did a quick search and it looks like "Campfire Tales" is up on Kindle and in various formats on SmashWords.  I'm excited.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A More Efficient Animal

Learning fighting (whether in the guise of self-defense or martial arts or combatives)* isn't that hard.  It's natural.  It is something your ancestors have done, largely without any training, since before there were people or even fish.

Often training is not about how to do things or learning more techniques.  It is about finding the conditioning, the subtle little leashes that keep us from doing what needs to be done.  We all have years of being told how to be good people and how to get along, and that training has conditioned deep.  The fact that you can say the words, "When the time comes..." doesn't appear to correlate at all with your ability to actually act.

So I say, frequently, "You've spent your whole life being a good person.  Don't forget that you are also a perfectly good animal."  Here's some of what that means:

  • Use sight less and touch more.  Sight, especially focused sight, appears to be wired to higher brain functions.  It almost cried for analysis and decisions at a cognitive level.  And there is rarely time for that in a really bad situation.  So use your eyes less.  I'm aware this feeds into my bias as an instructor.  My preferred fighting range is too close to see clearly... but still.  Touch is faster reaction time than sight.  When you learn to read precursor movements (shifts in center of gravity and base) you can read what the threat is about to do, a fraction of a second of precognition.  Touch is harder to fool or misread than sight.  And, possibly most important, life is a contact sport.  Eyes are non-contact, distance sensors.  You can think you know things by sight that you can only truly understand by feel.
  • Smell.  Related, but smell goes to the deepest part of the brain.  It seems (at least for me) to trigger an animalistic and predatory process when I consciously smell a threat.  And I'm sure being sniffed in a brawl is a little freaky from the other end.  Lastly, if you can smell, you are breathing.
  • Forget your training.  Memory and cognition are possible the worst places to be in your head in a close-up brutal fight.  Merely trust that your training has become a natural part of the way you move. A feel, not a thought.  Let go.  Your training should inform your movement, not dictate it.
  • Love moving.  Grappling or dance or trail running... do something that makes you move in random, unpredictable ways and do it because it feels so nice.  Not because you are supposed to. Not to please someone else or to stick to a workout plan.  Because it is fun.  Remember that your body is your second best toy.
  • Trust your instincts.  Quit trying to explain them away.
  • Be a different species.  As a rule, we hunt or butcher animals and we fight people.  Slaughtering a 1200 pound steer is fast and simple, it's just a chore.  Fighting a 1200 pound steer is unlikely to end well.  When you can apply that mindset to humans, you can move and act with ruthless efficiency, solving the real problem (he needs to be cuffed) and ignoring the imaginary/bullshit/social problem (he isn't acknowledging my authority).  It's not easy.  Our deepest conditioning and much of society is set up specifically to prevent people from doing this. But it is incredibly effective when you can reach this point.
  • Sense weakness.  This is something all predators can do.  You're a predator.  It is more advanced in us.  Any animal can find the smallest, the weakest, the most dependent and helpless.  Almost any animal can read the dangers inherent in certain terrains.  Any human with a little training can know most of the vulnerable places in a human body and how to reach them.  With a little practice, you can read the vulnerabilities in stance, balance and momentum with a touch.  Where it gets interesting and very human is when you can learn to find the social and emotional vulnerabilities.  It is the same skill.
  • Meet your lizard.  Most people in our society have never been pushed, not to the levels of hunger or fear or desperation or rage that can completely change a personality.  The lines are there.  You can all imagine being hungry enough to steal food from a stranger.  But there is a combination of hunger and fear and desperation where you will steal food from your mother or your children who are just as hungry.  You can choose to deny it if you want and I hope that you always live in a world where you can deny it... but that line is there.  It's a deep part of who you are.  Not dark or evil, just focused only on survival.  It's hard to truly meet this part.  As far as I've gone, there is still much, much more.  Many things I don't know.
  • Don't deny your lizard.  Don't deny any part of you.  
  • Humility.  Everything is meat.  Part of being an animal is never forgetting that.  There is always something out there that can and will eat you.  This is another big truth that civilization seems designed to deny.
  • Enjoy.  Being an animal is a very rich and intense way to live.

* But not sport.  Any sport is a contest designed to test like against like and to measure the things we value as a species.  So sport measures strength and speed and endurance (just like any animals trying to win a herd of females) and certain elements of thought.  It does not measure and specifically forbids finding out who can go murderous quickest, who has least social conditioning, who can cheat first and hardest... All things incredibly valuable in every other type of physical conflict.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Garry Smith at the Academy of Self Defense in Sheffield (UK) has started a blog.  I added it to the Links down on the right.  If he writes regularly, it will creep up into the blog roll list.  Garry will be one of my hosts in the UK later this month, and that's part of the connection, but he wrote something brilliant that spoke directly to me.

I don't like the idea of getting old.  I doubt if it's the years as much as the mileage.  Old breaks ache, old dislocations click and catch.  Weird tremors, vision blurry in the eye that wasn't gouged...

Whining.  Sorry.

A big part of my fear of growing old is that I don't know anyone who came from my background who did so successfully.  'Growing old gracefully' always looked like something rich people with peaceful lives could do.  The ranch country where I grew up, the loggers and ranchers just worked (and drank) until they died.  None of the extraordinary fighters that I know are transitioning well.  Either still trying to play like a young man and racking up serious injuries or collapsing in memories of the days when they did something 'more real' and all too often that descends into alcohol too, a way to time travel and deal with what seems like boredom.

The best way to solve many problems is to find someone else who has solved it... but fighters growing old gracefully appear to be rare as purple pearls.  Greg Jones of San Soo appears to be doing the best, but his early life was pretty hellish and he really appreciates the relative peace.

Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how to grow old gracefully, and that might be the problem.

Garry wrote:
"I intend to grow old disgracefully..."

Yeah.  That right there.  Needs to be on a T-shirt.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Note From Montreal

Montreal was a blast, and I was too busy to write about it.  Now is a good time to fix that.  A small group of good people, a beautiful city to walk in and free-range environmental brawling on a condemned floor of an historical building.  It may get better than that, but it was damn nice.

Marilene, of Monteregie Aikikai was one of the participants.  During one of the lunch breaks (did I mention some fantastic food in Montreal?) she shared a little diagram on a napkin.  A Venn diagram with the big circle marked 'dojo' and three intersecting circles within the big one labelled 'humans' 'etiquette' and 'technique.'  She was putting into pictures that creating a dojo (not just good training, but creating a good, long-term place to train) was finding a balance between the techniques, the people and the ritual.

People are important.  If they don't like each other, they won't train for very long.  Same if there is no trust for the instructor.  Or if things are unpleasant.  Absolutely true.  But the essence of any training, of any learning, is to grow and change.  Not just combatives or martial arts or any specific style.  Anything you put effort into should change you (though a lot of people seem to put a lot of effort into avoiding change.) But change is always uncomfortable and often hurts... especially if the intent is to prepare the people for ugly things.  And there are a lot of ways to make people feel better, and maybe most of them blunt the training.  But people are important.  No people, no training.

Etiquette is one of the interesting ones.  I always think of etiquette as 'forms of respect.'  I can feel absolute respect and show it by my cultural perspective and still be profoundly insulting.  Good intentions are no protection against acting like a jerk... (Worst example, from an SCA event decades ago, a person who can generously be described as a punk said, "I don't have to be polite.  I'm chivalrous.")  The etiquette in martial endeavors is special as well.  What we practice is (or should be) dangerous, and that goes for those who practice at well.  Every culture of dangerous people has a detailed etiquette, whether bushi, vikings, soldiers, prisoners or gang members.  There are some universals (I know of no violent subculture where touching someone else's weapons without permission is acceptable) but some of the rules are very culturally specific.

Etiquette can also mean the ritual, too, and sometimes that is a form of respect without the respect, or with the reason forgotten.

Lastly the techniques.  My opinion, but there is no way to learn this stuff without at least pain, and injury is usually a possibility.  The very nature of it makes it easy to drive away people.  Further, good combative/martial/SD training is intensively about violating social taboos.  Deliberately violating the rules of proper decorum by invading space, controlling behavior, causing injury...  So the very thing you are teaching violates standard etiquette.

It's an interesting model, and Marilene put a lot of thought into it.

And it gets more complicated.  Human and etiquette intersect and are influenced by relationships vertically (student/instructor), horizontally (student/student) and many degrees of laterally (insider/outsider and ally/enemy).  Technique taught (and this affects etiquette and people) also have to be scaled.  Safe and effective are almost inversely correlated.

Then the two big ones that affect all other things-- purpose and context.

Purpose, of course, has dimensions.  Self-defense?  Dueling?  Raiding and war?  Exercise?  Performance?  But there is also a sneaky one that for many people may be more important and more valuable but is almost always unconscious.  Is the purpose for the student (all of the examples-- SD, dueling, etc. are to make the student better at something)?  Or is the purpose for the relationships?  Is the training about the school, the system, or the hierarchy?  Subconscious, but if there's koolaid being served it is to preserve or create a relationship.  That focus sometimes rewards magical thinking and outlandish promises and false confidence.

The other, of course, is context.  In what world is the student expected to use the skills?  Only within the safe nest of the school?  In the modern world complete with cell phone cams and self-defense laws, traffic and blood-borne pathogens?  Or in an imaginary or reconstructed medieval world?

Complex idea.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Rolling Dirty

We were rolling dirty last night.
Dan started with a series of exercises working the ranges of the guard as a warm up (love it when an instructor warms up with skills instead of calisthenics) then had his students free flow some BJJ-based self-defense situationals.  Then he okayed letting them play with rolling dirty.

That's just grappling with the other stuff thrown in-- gouging and biting and striking and slamming people into walls.  A good time.

But it can be a weird experience.  Ideally, when you start a system it will show you a whole bunch of things you've never seen before.  It hits hard on the perception part of the last post.  That is a very good thing.  But almost all systems I've seen subtly transition from seeing all the cool stuff inside the system to learning not to see the opportunities outside the system.  Eyes are opened and then blindered.

Dirty rolling just reminds people of what they already knew:  Shit happens in a fight.

But it was weird, because of the way some perceived it.  And there were a few serious mental errors creeping in.

One said that many of his go-to techniques didn't work because of the unexpected knees and elbows flying in or the gouges... and that's not quite right.  It wasn't because of the strikes and gouges so much as the 'unexpected.'  That's important.  Getting hit and gouged is kind of natural in a fight.  Once it ceases to be unexpected, the go-to stuff tends to work again.

You also need to distinguish between damage and distraction.  Rolling dirty allows for things ranging from throat spiking (always pulled) to slapping and tickling.  With the exception of the percussion slap over the ear and the shotei/KGB slap, you can slap people all day.  And tickling?  Pure distraction.  But if you let yourself get distracted, it works.  And if it is novel, people tend to get distracted.

But the biggest point might be the easiest to miss.  Doing a style, blinders and all, can lock you in.  You get exposed to something else, it can seem like the new stuff is better because when you were doing BJJ or judo or whatever it was relatively easy (in your comfort zone, expected problems) and suddenly stuff doesn't work... It 's natural to think that the dirty rolling is somehow more effective.  It is very, very easy to miss the fact that the years of rolling (judo, in my case) were instrumental in making the 'dirty' stuff so easy to do.  I wouldn't give up my early training in solid fundamentals for any bag of tricks.

But you can have both.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Perception and Decision

Last few days included guest teaching at a karate school; conflict communications; two-day Intro to Violence; a day of VPPG that ranged from getting the impact into some of the slow motion drills, fighting (and running) on stairwells, strangles and c-spine breaks and confidence in the face of knowledge; then how to run scenarios.  Heading to a BJJ class in a few minutes....

Nice, busy.

Been circling a thought.  It's nothing new in a lot of ways, but I don't think I've hit it up the middle yet.

90% (statistic totally made up) of what I teach is about learning to see.  That includes everything from seeing the physical possibilities (open targets, lines of balance, momentum vectors, environmental opportunities) to the social dynamics (what type of violence?) to exploiting the nuances of the social dynamic (gather resources, influence witnesses, reframe the problem...) to reading and exploiting terrain, both in the moment and strategically.

That's cool.  We can all stand to spend hours on that.  One of the most useless things a self-defense instructor can do is to harp on awareness without ever explicitly stating what to be aware of.

Not a problem I regularly have.

That said, whenever you increase the perceived complexity of a problem, you run the risk of slowing down the decision process. Analysis paralysis.  The brownbelt syndrome.  Doesn't matter what you call it.

There's a bind there.  It may slow down the decision.  But it increases the opportunities for resolution.  And often, for particular people, the best solution is going to be off the main path.  If you teach SD as primarily a physical skill, you limit the chances for success for the less-physical students, who are far more likely to be victimized anyway.  The more you see, the more options... but add that the options interact and it becomes a multi-dimensional problem with multi-dimensional possibilities.

And that's good.  As long as you don't freeze.

Some of the stuff is basic, and leaving it out of training is unforgivable.  That's the chapter list of "Facing Violence".  But you can add an almost infinite amount more and, if you really understand it, the nuances can really increase your effectiveness.

So the first stage is getting the student to see as much as they can handle.  It should be targeted, focused on the types of violence an individual student profiles... but more is good.

And then practice at manipulating what they can see.  A lot of this won't happen in the training hall, and that's okay.  Most of life happens in a perfect environment for reading and manipulating possibilities on almost every level.  But the student has to practice.  Get comfortable.  Slowly shift knowledge to understanding.  That will speed up the reaction time.

And then the different knowledges have to become less different.  Violence dynamics and social dynamics and terrain and physical skills might be played with separately at first, but they all interconnect and if you play long enough in the world, they become sections of a single thing in your head.  You know arms and legs and torsos and you can look at the world like that, but they eventually have to blend and be seen as people, not parts.  The same thing happens with the dynamics of violence.

Just aspects, not different studies at all.

And somewhere in there, making a decision shifts from a cognitive process to something that just happens.  A flow.  Fluid or staccato, part of a complex plan or an immediate ending, your actions, your solutions just 'are.'