Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big Question

Just finished the Bujinkan Camp.

Good times, good people.  Largely due to Jack Hoban.  Some of you have heard about my first exposure to the Takumatsuden arts...

"My black belt," he actually hitched his thumb in it and sneered, "Is in Ninpo.  What you civilians call ninjitsu."  Followed by an epic rolling session where the 'unbeatable ninja master' submitted at least forty-five times in less than thirty minutes.  Epic is the wrong word.  "Pathetic" would be giving this young shidoshi-ho more credit than he deserved...

Anyway, suffice it to say my initial exposures to modern ninjitsu were not positive.  But I have since met some good people- Mariusz and Earl and several of Dale's students in SF are damn good people.  I like Don (although some day we are going to have a serious talk about the view from the outside).

But Jack Hoban is something special.  Former Marine.  Disciple of Robert Humphey, who may have cracked the code on natural ethics.  Good (maybe great) man and a good (maybe great) martial artist.  I like the way Jack plays and I love the way he thinks.

Today I heard his theory on PTSD and PTSD treatment.  It works for me, but in the conversation leading up to it there was a gem of a question.  Not about PTSD but about people who are robust against extreme stress in general.  The answer, almost universally, is love.

You can become addicted to the danger.  Addicted to the feeling of reality and importance when you do big, dangerous and impossible things.  But that is only unbalancing if that is all you do.  As long as you come back to the world and put equal weight into loving something or someone who is good, you'll be okay.

So here's the big question:

Of those of you who have spent four hours or more this week training to hurt someone who is bad... did you spend at least four hours being nice to the people you love?

Think about it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Paralysis of Hope

The myth of Pandora's box always confused me.  It made no sense.  After all, Hope was in the box filled with all of the evils and ailments of men-- famine, disease, death, jealousy, anger-- and in order to get the benefit of Hope, it was kept in the box, not let out to infect the world.

Even as a kid, I thought that didn't make sense.  Why Hope included in a list of evils?  If the evils could only affect the world by being released, how could Hope help anyone by being caged?  Dumb.

But maybe not.

As long as I'm cataloging some dark thoughts...

In a drawn-out violent episode, the threat wants to keep the victim from effectively fighting.  In a true blitz, that's not much of a problem.  Close distance, distract, flurry attack.  The victim tends to freeze.  In a longer, drawn out, ugly scenario (think secondary crime scene and all that implies) an unconscious victim doesn't supply the necessary 'fun'  but a conscious victim might well fight.  And so the threat has to get control of the brain.

Not always, and don't take anything I'm writing here as absolute.  I'm trying to set up a specific type of event to examine here..

Teja described it best (and I think we captured her little talk in the "Logic of Violence" DVD coming out soon.)  The threat does a mix of savagery and niceness, making the victim think her only hope is in being nice and keeping the threat nice...and so the victim doesn't fight.

Her hope keeps her from fighting.

And it makes me wonder how many people over the millennia died without fighting when they desperately needed to fight.  How many waited for rescue or prayed for intervention, and let themselves die?  And how many prevailed when they realized there was no hope and fought with everything they had?

Were the Greeks saying that hope is the one evil you must lock up in order to fight the others?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Punishment and Justice and Vengeance

The thing with a road trip is the very long, late night conversations.  Sometimes my control slips or my guard comes down or whatever happens and I see things in a different way, with more emotion than I usually do. More empathy. That's neither good nor bad, just different.

Anyway, M was talking about victims who want vengeance.  Who didn't seem to realize that the vengeance they wanted was wrong, that a bullet to the head was quicker that...

And I got it, in a weird way.

Justice is a hard thing to define.  It's like fairness.  There is one group that says that a fair basketball game is one with objective refs where all the rules are applied to all the players equally.  I'm cool with that.  That's the ideal, and subject to human error, but I like that.

There is another group, and one that seems to be growing, that seems to believe that a fair basketball game is one that ends in a tie.  An uneven score is prima facie evidence that the game is unfair and it is the responsibility of the refs to apply the rules in any way necessary to keep the scores even.

I'm not cool with that.  Not with the power dynamic, nor with where it has to end.

But both are valid definitions for fair. (I'm assuming you all understand the difference between truth and validity.)

Justice seems tied up with fair.  Actions bringing commensurate responses.  An ideal, but try to adjust it much past the 1:1 math of "an eye for an eye" or "blood for blood" of the old vendettas and it gets very ambiguous very quickly.

So we wind up with a justice system and an ideal of punishment that has more to do with the feelings of society than with altering behavior (punishment in the behavioral sense) or any recognizable definition of justice.

And I'm cool with that.  Some can stomach the idea of state executions, some can't.  When the majority can't, those are the rules we follow.  Because the mores, the way things are done, are more important to a society than any particular piece of justice.  Far less cool with it when I'm too close to the problem... but when I can be objective I get it and even when it was hard to be objective that was the job, and I did the job.

My personal belief is to scrap the entire idea of justice and treat crime as a public health issue.  One chance to modify behavior.  If that fails, remove the individual.  Years ago, I read a story  (My memory is fuzzy but I think it was H Beam Piper and it was SF) where the judge said something like, "I'm not ordering your execution because of what you did.  I'm ordering your execution because you have shown you are willing to do what you did."  That resonated.  Some bacteria are good for you, some kill.  As a public health issue, why treat a person who kills any differently than a bacteria?

But the vengeance thing.
Normally I'm with M.  Rapist?  Shoot him in the head.  Quick.  Efficient. Cheap. And never, ever will he victimize anyone else.  And that's enough.  For me.

But, combination of sleep deprivation and the company, I got a whiff of the logic of vengeance and punishment.  Not real logic.  The math actually doesn't work unless there is an afterlife or reincarnation.  But I have heard evil men bragging, and reminiscing about how their victims begged.

The drive (remember this is sleep deprivation talking) is to bring things full circle, to closure.  And that will never feel complete until the perpetrator felt what the victim felt.  Until the victimizers learn the lessons of the victims.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Inspired by Kasey

Violence Dynamics seminar is winding down here in Minnesota.  Hitting the road again in a few hours.  Good and bad.  The debrief on this one will be informative, to say the least.

Kasey got a whole day to teach yesterday—eight hours of strangles, chokes and neck cranks.  Cool to be in a jurisdiction that doesn’t automatically assume that any force to the neck is deadly force.  He’s a good teacher.  Good movement, good relevance, good communication.  And, most valuable to me, he gets me thinking… (right this second, as Marc teaches, Kasey is condensing the violence classifications from “Facing Violence” into a few sentences for the one person who wasn’t here for the whole week.)

But, as always, the blog is about me.  And ideas.  And thoughts.  Kasey triggered a cascade yesterday.  The thought process goes like this:

Kasey says, “I’m a judo guy, and you can do this technique like a judo guy or an aikido guy or even a kung-fu guy.  It will all look a little different but it will still work.”

And that triggers the idea of a plastic mind exercise where you work a single technique, but in the mindsets of different martial arts.  Just to feel and explore the flavor.  Each repetition or series will feel and work slightly differently.
Hence- Plastic Mind Drill X: “Do it Like a (name martial art here)”

Earlier in the day, and playing with the officers Thursday, I was doing light sparring with one or both hands in pockets or with my coffee cup.  Believe it or not, I don’t do this because I’m an arrogant prick or to show off. I do it for me.  It forces me to think differently.  It forces me to be more efficient.  With your hands in your pockets you must learn to glide strikes with your elbows and shoulders and it really improves your tai sabaki.  It also brings it to the next level where the glides unbalance as well and, with practice, gives you a taste of using some subtle anatomical weapons with momentum.

And so, a name to put on something we’ve been doing forever: “Subtle Disadvantage Drills”

“Do it Like X”
“Subtle Disadvantage”

A few more:
Osaekomi (I tend to use more Japanese after hanging with Kasey.  The shared judo background makes for a nice shorthand.)  Osaekomi is pinning.  Pinning and escaping from pinning and preventing pinning are great skill building for one of the hallmark combative skills: Moving a body.

But, one of the key differences between a good grappler and a mediocre grappler (and I will argue, in a real fight, the difference between most people and someone who is really good) is the ability to relax.  To simply relax.  When I did a regular JJ class, we would usually end with rolling, and I would roll with all of the students in sequence until they were too tired to continue.  Not a big deal.  lots of judo, BJJ and a few JJ guys do this.

The reason we can exhaust a class isn’t because of conditioning or some magic skill.  The better you are, the more relaxed you are, the less sugar and oxygen you burn the longer you can last.  And that efficiency in energy conservation, IMO translates into efficiency in technique application.

So what about doing grappling drills and every so often shift the focus from skill building to relaxation practice?  Meditating from the pin.

(I also noticed that a lot of people don’t get the idea of throwing their legs and using the dead weight to pull their own bodies through a turn.  Hard to describe, but useful.  Don’t have a specific drill for it though…)

Acting practice.  We try to make the approaches and set-ups as real as possible.  We want the students to recognize a predatory approach.  Especially how predators try to act like non-predators.  Conversely, in some situations (especially sexual violence with a medium or long build-up phase) the intended victim is going to have to make an approach and then execute a plan…and is likely to fail if she cannot disguise her intentions.  Practicing acting with any build-up just makes sense.  On multiple levels.  “It doesn’t take a good actor to spot a bad actor.”

Elbow chisao- done this more often as a demo than a drill, but why not?  Play with the basic sensitivity of sticky hands and work in the leverage and momentum skills of working the back of the elbow.

Lots of themes, here, and this is just thinking out loud.  Relax.  See opportunities.  Integrate everything.  Transition from your slow thinking mind to your faster, older brain.  Training is not conditioning and what happens when you can improvise under pressure seems to be a different effect.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Beliefs Empowering Evil

Just wrapped up an on-line writer's course.

Near the end, I got a question:

 "...what is your opinion of Ben Bova’s recommendation to authors that their works not contain villains? He states, in his Tips for writers: "In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them."

My first reaction was frankly emotional:

Sorry.  I had a guy in custody who cut open a two-year-old baby's belly with a tin can lid and raped the wound.  Mr. Bova is talking about his world, not mine.

I don't mind emotion sometimes, but it's not that useful.  So:

think I was unfair in my first answer to this question.  Let me try it another way. No one believes that they are evil.  Not Stalin, not Hitler, not Pol Pot, and not some bastard who rapes babies.  Every last one of them has a justification.  My emotional reaction to Bova's
statement was this-- just because some  rapist justifies his actions to himself, that in no way causes me, and shouldn't cause anybody, to buy into his bullshit.  Justifications are not real and the story you tell yourself doesn't make actions good and when people pretend that raping a baby is... "only people with problems, struggling to solve them" they have no idea how encouraging and useful rapists find those words. It does far more to encourage crime than the author can possibly know.

So, let's take an example and, given the audience, the example is writing fiction.  I assume that you do it because you love it, that it makes you feel alive.  It may be the most important thing in your life.

What if 99.9% of the world decided it was wrong?  No-- it was evilYou are, after all, lying.  Telling and selling lies that doom impressionable young readers into believing that there are really heroes and true love and soulmates!  You need to be stopped!

Would you give up writing?

That is how some of the process predators (the ones who commit the crime for the pleasure of committing-- serial killers, serial rapists, conmen, certain assaulters) see their crimes.  The best thing in the world and the benighted, ignorant masses in pure prejudice are trying to put a stop to it.

Others just don't care or grasp that other people have rights or feelings.  One rapist/murderer told me that as a man, I should understand.  He always asked first and he only raped the ones who said 'no.'  Where did they get the idea that a mere woman had the right to say no to him?

A pedophile who didn't understand the difference between his shoes and his daughter.  He could do what he wanted.  That's what 'his' _means_. He thought we (society, the courts...) were completely unjust not to understand that.

There was a high-profile disappearance a while back.  Not sure how much I can share, but her father had been molesting her for a long time.  When the neighbor asked for a turn, daddy said, "I don't share my meat."  Exact quote.  So the neighbor later abducted, raped and murdered her.

One of the most violent felons I dealt with told me, "I just do what everybody wants to do. The rest of you just don't have the guts." The highest-end predators honestly think that they are better, stronger and smarter than the rest of the world.  And they prove it to themselves by doing things others won't do.  It's fallen into disfavor, thankfully, but remember the push to increase children's self-esteem a few years ago?  The highest self-esteem scores are consistently found in violent criminals and if you raise that esteem, you raise the violence.

In each case, these guys will have a story where they are either the good guys or the victims.  All respect to Mr. Bova, it's just a story and it's bullshit and it empowers them when we buy into the myth.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Silly Season

"Here we are again," K said as she took the familiar turn off to the airport.  At least it's not a red-eye this time.  Two weeks home.  Very nice.  I'll be home for a day or two at a time until late October.

Busy is good.

The political silly season is on, and it is a showcase for tribal, monkey-brained limbic-system thinking.  Very little neocortex activity is involved.  If their side says it, it is evil and reprehensible; if our side says the exact same thing it is wise or the only option or...

This has been hard.  I predicted a while ago that as the two major parties in the U.S. become even more similar, the rhetoric would have to get more heated.  If there are no substantial differences you must emphasize the cosmetic ones to keep the tribal lines clear, after all.

I have a lot of very intelligent friends who I both admire and disagree with.  If I ever agree with you on everything, the world doesn't need us both.  But this election season has been ugly.

I've seen very intelligent, compassionate people indulge in something that they themselves would call bigoted hate-speech if the nouns were simply changed.  Hate speech is not defined by the target, but by the manner.

I have read a best-selling author and a good man say that anyone not on his side (not the people who disagree with him, any individual who is not a member of his party) is 'stupid' and 'allergic to truth'.

One, possibly more insightful, did not want to discuss a subject because she did not want any facts shaking her beliefs.

And I have seen fine men of integrity spread lies...and no matter how much they want to believe the things they say are true, they weren't even subtle lies.

So here's some advice from the Conflict Communication model. It might be easier to grasp if you've taken the whole class.
If your monkey/tribal brain is working your human/thinking brain is not.
If you are feeling emotion, you are not thinking.  That part of your brain is turned off.
If it is about who did or said it and not what was said, you are in your tribal brain.
If you label anyone, it is a tactic to put that person  in another tribe specifically so that you don't have to listen to the content.

And one piece of advice not out of ConCom: People who disagree with you are rarely stupid.  If you cannot effectively, compassionately and convincingly argue the other side's point of view, you are the one in your tribal brain.  You are the stupid one.

Stay in the debate, but use your brain.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hard to Systematize

Working on outlining/writing two projects now.
One is the Big Book of Everything, my personal notebook on everything that I think works and matters for self protection.  The stuff I trust and the teaching methods that I believe work best.
The other is "Awareness" coming off of the recent post.

Both are kicking my ass.

The hardest thing about writing "Meditations on Violence" was trying to find a logical order.  Violence is big, probably as big as communication.  And it is complicated.  And every little detail affects many things. In a way, it is four dimensional.  You have to start somewhere and build up to levels of understanding, but each thing you learn changes you understanding of the things you thought you already had.

For Awareness, my gut is to break it into the Four Factors:
The Threat(s)
The Environment

Can't start with 'You' though because until people understand and trust the way I analyze it can be very off-putting to have some unknown schmoe say in a book, "Y'all probably don't know yourself that well or have any idea of who you truly are under stress."  Get a little exposure to the method, and the readers will try some of the drills.

So start with the threat, right?
So violence motivations and how goals and parameters drive the crime. (And that's another issue in that I don't want to repeat stuff I've put in other books, since I hate reading that...but I also don't want readers to feel they are being tricked or pressured into buying a second book.  Yeah.  My integrity issues.) Logic of Violence stuff.
And within that we'll talk about drugs.  All the drugs?  Or general types, stimulants and depressants and hallucinogens?  What phase of the cycle?  Early withdrawals, late withdrawals, high as a kite and steady?  How to tell and what it indicates and how to use the information...
Individual and group dynamics...

And you have to know what to look for (observe) know what it means (orient) and what you can and can't do with the information (decide/options).

So motivations are a part of it, as are thought processes.  As are physicality, from weapons to positioning to reading feet.

And all of this is interactive.  The Threat is continuously interacting with the environment and on some level with you and in many situations with other people-- confederates or bystanders or witnesses.

You and the environment are just as complicated.

The information isn't that hard.  Organizing it is.