Thursday, October 31, 2013

Intel, Influence, Control

Not sure where I'm going with this.  Bear with me.

You can look at almost any human interaction as one of these three things.  From conversation to a fight, I am either trying to learn about you, influence you, or control you.  There's some overlap, primarily in that gathering intelligence should be an ongoing and instinctive process, present in all instances of control and influence.

Verbally, even small talk.  You do gather information from small talk.  Rarely the subject matter, and that may be the point.  You gather information about how comfortable the person is socially and what level of connection they feel towards you. My high-functioning friends on the spectrum can be very smooth with small talk, as long as the script doesn't deviate.  And subject matter-- small talk may be a natural counter-intelligence technique to avoid giving up important data.

Lots of talking, maybe most of all communication, is about influence.  We are constantly trying to modify the behaviors of those around us.  Consciously or not, you dress to either get a reaction or to avoid reactions.  Even dressing to blend in is influencing others.  Arguing, debate, persuasion, or the subtle manipulation of letting someone discover a thing... all are influence.  All communication is manipulation.

 Influence works by providing intel.  The intel may or may not be true.  May or may not be logical.  Emotion works even better than facts in most cases to change behavior.

Control is the removal of choices.  Giving orders.  Making ultimatums.  Writing laws. It must be backed up with the power to enforce it OR applied to someone who has been thoroughly conditioned to obey. You herd sheep.  You don't bother to negotiate with them.

Unless you are dealing with a population conditioned to obedience, control may have quick responses, but it has long term costs.  The relationship of equals becomes impossible.  There must either be a power struggle or the power disparity grows until one of the populations is purely a victim, a slave.  And when a controller tries to influence, tries to pretend that there is mutually equality, you will see the sick dynamic of victim grooming.  They can only keep up the pretense of equality until the victim presumes upon it...

And all of this applies to battle at any scale.  Every sensitivity drill in martial arts is about gathering information.  The typical beat-degage-beat as an opening move in fencing will usually tell you if your opponent is strong or weak, quick or slow, aggressive or a counter-striker, sensitive or dull, brave or timid. A little training in chi sao and you should be able to touch your opponent's forearm and now where his entire skeleton is located, where his weight and balance are, and where he is about to move.
You look to aim.  We have to consciously program and practice the 360 scan.  It goes all the way up to satellite imagery and analysis of open source news.

The pain-compliance levels of defensive tactics or going for a submission in sport or the shock-and-awe strategy are all influence. The bad guy could always ignore the pain and keep fighting.  A submission can always go to a dislocation, if you have the will (and, aside, one of the purposes of having a ref to call it is so that people can avoid finding out if they have the will).  But I've seen people fight with broken bones and dislocations.  I've had sport fights, one consim training and one real force incident where my shoulder dislocated and I kept going.

And shock and awe. Looking too powerful to even fight.  Making it look like submission is the only survivable option.  Influence by adding information.  The entire idea behind maneuver warfare, for that matter.

And control.  No choices.  Pulling the trigger (not always immediate, but the goal in shooting someone is to make it impossible for them to continue, not just change their attitude).  Strangling someone out.  The war of attrition.

Control is not always this grim.  Handcuffs on the cop side.  Pins (osaekomi waza) on the judo side-- the point is you can't escape.

So, how to use this paradigm?
Intelligence gathering should just become a habit.  Every interaction with every person, whether watching someone walk on the sidewalk, a conversation with a friend or a stranger, a sparring match or a fire fight is an exercise in observing and learning.  Don't nut up on this. If you think in an ugly fight you'll have better things to do than pay attention, it will probably end badly.  You have to deal with what is happening, ergo you must know what is happening.  Otherwise you are rolling the dice.

Be clear when you are intending to influence or control.  You do it all the time anyway, try to do it consciously.  The most dangerous mistake is to attempt to blend influence and control when control is required.  If you are setting a boundary, it is not a conversation.  (see Scaling Force for more on Boundary Setting and verbal responses to threats in general.)

Experiment in your training with manipulation.  Maija does this with sword, I like doing it with unarmed-- if you give a target too juicy to pass up, your opponent will exploit it in a predictable way.  It's how you set up an armbar, for instance.

Lastly, take a look at the communications aimed at you, at what goes on in the world around you.  Who is trying to influence you?  For what purpose? Who is trying to control you, taking away your choices?
This goes deep, and you will see people presenting their controls as mere influence or even kindness and their enemy's arguments (influence) as life-threatening (control).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seven Strategies

There are three natural strategies for dealing with predators: Hide, run and fight.
There are two more for dealing with your own species: Posture and Submit. Both occasionally work cross species.

The three natural strategies mimic the Freeze-Flight-Fight.  Freezing is natural.  We evolved in a world where predators key on motion.  It is a form of hiding when it is too late to hide.  If something else is moving and you aren't, the eyes of the predator will be drawn to the something else.  And it works sometimes in social violence.  Often, when someone wants to escalate to physical violence, he or she needs a 'hook' a reason to blame you.  Frequently, freezing denies the hook.

Hiding can be an effective strategy.  Many wild birds hide their nests.  Helpless things like eggs and fawns are camouflaged.  There is a definite trainable skill in it.  When it works, the cost is low.  However when it fails, it fails catastrophically.  For that reason I'm uncomfortable with lockdown as the sole response to school shootings.  They call it shooting fish in a barrel for a reason.

Running works too.  It's very hard to be injured if you're not there.  It works for herd animals, as long as something else is slower. Predators are lazy.  Or efficient, depending what spin you want to put on it. Turtles are easier to run down than gazelles. And that's the rub.  No matter how much you pretty it up, running works as a strategy because you are willing to sacrifice one of your own.  When you can't run, or aren't willing to run because of who the target will become, you get stuck with freeze or fight.

Fighting-- probably 50% of the blog is about that.  It's an unfortunate word.  People tend to think of the dominance struggle within a group, and that's more a part of posturing.  It's not what a caribou should do to a wolf, no more than you should try to box or grapple a tiger.  As a targeted prey, an animal knows that the predator has the advantage-- bigger, stronger, with more weapons, probably all of the above.  The fight strategy is an attempt to make you too expensive to be a meal.  It is not something rabbits do because they believe they can beat a coyote

It's especially an unfortunate choice of words when people attempt to use Monkey Dance defaults in predatory situations.  Again, something I've written and talked about until I'm tired of it.

Posturing is generally playing the alpha male or Monkey Dance game.  Trying to look impressive.  Threats.  Sometimes it does work on predators-- being loud and making big arm motions sometimes discourages cougars and bears.  And sometimes it doesn't.  Again, one of the things that when it fails tends to fail catastrophically.  Predators don't play in the same league or for the same stakes as intra-species rivalry.  When bluffing fails on a creature that has claws and fangs...

Submission, showing the signs of surrender works within species.  It can go very badly when you have been trained that all people are essentially the same and you are trying to surrender to a society that believes anyone not like them is subhuman.  So maybe I should say that it usually works within cultural groups.  Unless you are dealing with someone who wants a reputation for breaking social rules.

Sometimes it works with predators.  There are a few documented instances of playing dead working with bears.  With certain human predators giving them what they want keeps them from using force.  With others, of course, submission gives them a clear signal that it is safe to use force, and they will.

All except fighting tend to work, but fail catastrophically when they fail.
Hide-> Fish in a barrel.
If you try to run and aren't fast enough, you've given up your back.
If your bluff gets called posturing, it will be bad against a predator, even money in social violence.
And submission postures are submission postures because they are difficult to fight from.

You can also get destroyed fighting, but that comes with the territory and if that's the strategy you picked you should feel somewhat prepared.  The thing with fighting is that when successful it has a higher price than any other successful strategy.  Fewer catastrophic losses, but the only strategy that risks catastrophic wins.

There are two more, one natural and one uniquely human.

Hunting.  Maximizing your advantages to eliminate the target as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.  With human technology, size, strength and ferocity of the target have little bearing.  Bad guys use this strategy.  It is hard for a good guy to use the strategy, though it is the central tenet of Llap Goch.  But good guys can use the mindset, and there is a lot of power in that.

The last strategy may be exclusively human (maybe not) and can be done in conjunction with any of the others: Gather intel.  If you pay attention you can learn much about your enemies, even while you are hiding (that's what scouts do, essentially); or running; or fighting (Maija is working on a book on reading and deceiving an opponent in a duel); or submitting (assassin's favorite?); or posturing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Good Day

Life has changed.  The first year I kept this blog, my definition of a good day was different.  Here's one example.

Today was a good day.  But very different.  Nick called late last night from Chicago.  It was a scotch-and-cigar kind of talk that would have gone better in person.

K has an incredibly rare string of days off.  I'm committed to the tune-up tomorrow, and I'll miss her, but I had one day with the precious lady.  A day of gathering materials and loading trucks and moving hay and digging holes and setting fence posts.  Sunday will involve a lot of carpentry.

Kasey has an idea for a kick-ass class (would it be possible to do active shooter training for cops and citizens at the same time?)  The logistics and the complexity of running such a scenario would be staggering... but with Kasey and Cabot, staggering is a minimum level of challenge.

Nick and James sent e-mails that will require some thought, as they are wont to do.

Greg sent the first draft of his foreword for the ConCom manual.

Got the tentative schedule for Spring in the UK.

Now it is time on the deck, in the mist, with a good book and a good Islay.  Steaks to come.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Idiots, Assholes and Pros

This is aimed mostly at professionals.
There are three general kinds of people that will require force.  The three types don't fight for the same reason or use the same tactics, and your skills may not work the same.

Honestly, most of the time, if you are in enforcement or corrections or especially bouncing, you are going to run into idiots.  The drunk college kid who squares off and lets you know he's coming a mile away.  The entitled whiner who thinks he's too special to go to jail just for driving drunk.  The martial artist who's never been in a real fight but doesn't believe there's a difference.

It may just be the old man in me coming out, but it seems like idiots are on the rise.  Fewer people have been exposed to violence; more people have never had their behavior controlled.  That combination creates people who are both hot-house flowers incapable of taking care of themselves, but certain that anything they want is a right and anyone who disagrees is an oppressor.  It seems I see more and more of this pathetically weak but shrill and bullying dynamic. For whatever my opinion is worth.

Idiots are easy.  You see them coming and almost anything done decisively works.  The drunk steroid freak squares off and let's you know he has a blackbelt in...

And you smile and toe kick him in the shin with your boot before he finishes the sentence and then drop him. Or beat past his arms and twist his spine.  Or, probably the classic:

Again, almost anything done decisively works.

Assholes are the second most common.  They like to fight and they have varying levels of, for want of a better word, professionalism.  The experienced know when they are outnumbered and tend to surrender.  The experienced assholes know when they are losing and give up.  Generally, even the experienced assholes don't like going hands on on a cop or other professional-- unless they sense any weakness.

They have varying levels of 'professionalism' in how far they are willing to go and incredibly varied skill levels.  An asshole who gets the drop on you is still dangerous even if he barely knows how to hit. To a large degree, fighting assholes is somewhat like fighting martial athletes.  A wide range of skill and commitment but generally, they like to fight and it will be a fight.  The fatal mistake is treating an asshole like an idiot.  When it comes time to bat his guard aside, the guard won't be weak and it will likely trigger a counter-attack.  An idiot's lack of confidence and/or lack of understanding of how the world really works are the reasons it is so easy to bat aside even their trained fists.  You won't get this with assholes.

And saying they like to fight isn't quite right either.  They don't like the give and take of fighting, only the give.  They enjoy causing pain and beating people down but tend not to be so big on receiving pain. So most won't engage if you act like a wary professional.  They won't see the safe opening.

The pros are a different kettle of fish.  For the most part, you won't get a lot of these.  Highest concentration is in prison, jails, or on elite teams.  Rarity makes them somewhat low risk.  Their own professionalism also makes them low risk.  It is very, very rare for this category to fight for ego.  If you have the drop on them and maintain control they will, generally, not resist.  If your handcuffing technique has a hole built into it or your approach is sloppy, they will use the Golden Rule of Combat: "Your most powerful weapon applied to your opponent's most valuable point at his time of maximum imbalance."  They will hit you hard, decisively, where and how it will do the most damage, and they will strike when you are least ready.

Assume most pros are skilled.  It's not always true and it's not a necessary factor, but growing into a pro mindset usually takes time and that kind of time doing those kinds of things develops skills.  That said, it doesn't take a lot of skilled technique when you follow the Golden Rule.  No one has to be trained to hit a man in the head with a brick from behind.

And the skill may be something unusual.  In the debrief on Minnesota I mentioned that there were some high-percentage techniques that simply didn't work on Kasey, Dillon or me.  Our grappling backgrounds made us instinctively structure in ways that idiots don't think to and assholes are too arrogant for, even if they had trained the skills.

Taxonomy alert: Taxonomies are naming classifications.  This is a separate taxonomy from the social/asocial that I usually use.  An asocial threat can fight as either an asshole or a pro (as an idiot, too, but Darwin usually takes care of that combination early).  The asocial/social/maslow/triune is a better introduction for most everybody, but people who use force professionally might get something from this classification.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Two big training weekends and I want to debrief them.  Not specifics, but some generalities.  Important things.

I sometimes say that a perfect training day is indicated by blood, sweat and tears.

I don't get the concept of not sweating in a physical art.  Doesn't matter what the art is-- martial arts or climbing or dance or horseback riding or tiddleywinks.  If you don't sweat, what exactly are you doing?  Feel free to disagree, but I think an absence of sweat means it's not a physical skill.

Blood.  This is a game of edges.  Physical edges, mental edges, emotional edges.  Physically, you're a skinbag of meat and (mostly nasty) liquids.  Life is a contact sport, and if you never get your skinbag moving fast and coming in contact with the things of the world, whatever your doing doesn't look or feel like living to me.  And that goes ten times for anything you want to call a martial art or martial sport or combatives or self-defense.  If you play so deep in your comfort zone that you never leak, you might be doing origami or tiddleywinks or low-level interpretive dance. Don't destroy yourself-- you can make your muscles stronger than your joints or create forces in a second that will ruin your physicality or your partner's forever-- but training only happens on the edge.

Lastly tears.  Fighting, especially survival fighting, is a mental and emotional skill far more than a physical skill.  You can live your martial fantasies and pretend it doesn't apply to you, but everyone has emotional edges.  Play tough guy all you want, but until you see the baby's head roll away, or watch someone trying to hold their stomach inside their skin, or feel the barrel of a shotgun in your mouth, you can't know how you will react.  Until you have been shattered and get back up, you cannot know if that is inside you, no matter what you tell yourself.

The last two weekends involved some intense stuff.  Part of scenario training is judiciously pushing buttons, creating a scenario that feels real and pushes someone right to the emotional edge.  Good scenario planning has a lot in common with sadism.  Except it is set up to power through.  To find or create the strength.  So, yeah, I'm a bastard.  Actually used a student's real daughter as a prop...and got to see a slender, untrained, retired lady throw a fifth degree blackbelt across the room and pull a soccer kick to his head just in time. And her tears were pouring down.  And that didn't stop her. Not. One. Damn. Bit.

Two perfect training weekends.  Blood sweat and tears.  Some of the students did some very deep work on themselves.  Everyone had fun.  I think every e-mail so far has said something like, "I'm still processing..."  Very, very good.

Monday, October 07, 2013


This has been a long eleven days. Roughly eight hours a day of training preceded by an hour or two of prep and finished with four or more hours of campfire-level talk.  One or two hours (depending on the day) for travel.  I'm a little wiped.

Friday.  Landed at the airport.  Killed time until Marc's plane got in.  Lise picked us up.  Drive to Lise's for dinner, scotch, talks.  Of the four instructors, (yours truly, Kasey Keckeisen, Marc MacYoung and Steve Jimerfield) Marc and Steve hadn't met.  Lots of story telling.  I listened.

Saturday.  Eight hours of mat time with Steve Jimerfield as the lead instructor.  30-year cop, retired.  Even at his age he moved and adapted like a force of nature.  Good techniques, structure and thought process.  Every art, system and instructor is formed by his or her environment.  Steve's was as an Alaska State trooper.  Back-up hours away, criminals with high confidence that they could make your body disappear if they got the upper hand and an environment (cold, slick, hypothermic and numb) that in some cases was more dangerous than the bad guy.  He lived in a world that had no room for error and a teaching environment where bullshit would kill rookies.

All week, each class and each day was debriefed by the students and each day began with a safety briefing.  Starting Monday, each new skill was thrown back into the One-Step to begin the integration process.

And usually followed by dinner, scotch and cigars.  And talking.  Lots of talking.  I won't go into these much because in many ways it blended into a single long conversation.

Sunday.  Day two of the cold weather One-on-One Control Tactics, plus two hours on a little pain compliance tool called the Talon.  I'm not big on pain compliance, it's extra and pain is legendarily idiosyncratic and unreliable.  I can ignore it so I assume most bad guys can.  That said, "ow."  Nice little bruises.  Also- Jimerfield is an old judo guy.  Between the judo and the experience, he moves the way so many aikidoka try to move and fail.

Monday.  Our first hiccup.  This entire seminar was Kasey's brainchild to see how our styles meshed, whether we could work together and take the first steps to designing a combined lesson plan.  Which would be cool, because Jimerfield's DT program blows away anything I've seen and the program we designed at MCSO does, too, but in different ways.  The meld might be amazing.

Unfortunately, we'd promised a 1on1CT Instructor's cert and that requires 40 hours with Steve for the basic. So we had to split into two tracks.  Half of the mission was accomplished-- I got a good taste of how Steve taught, but he was going to miss most of what Marc and I taught.  So we split into 2-tracks and I didn't get to watch one of them.  Our track included:

Intro to the basic drill (with all the little lessons in that)

  • Context (me) With a segue into teaching philosophy and teaching methods for emergency skills
  • Structure while moving (Marc)
  • Compliant cuffing (Steve) 
  • Power Generation (Marc's version)
  • Power Generation (My version)
  • Warm-up
  • Sightless (me)
  • Strikes to takedowns (Kasey)
  • Violence Dynamics (Me)
  • Threat Assessment (Marc)
  • One Step
  • Practical Locks (Me)
  • Force Law (Kasey)
  • Leverage (Me)
  • Ground Movement (Me)
  • Ethics and Application of Pain (Me)
  • Counter Assault (Me)
  • Drives and Impacts (Marc)
We were joined by the RCSO combined SWAT for their regular training.  First part of their morning was getting them up to speed on our methods and, especially, safety protocols.  One of the few places I've ever seen where civilians are allowed and encouraged to train with high-end police units. Then:
  • Environmental Fighting (Me)
  • Weapon Retention (Steve)  I took the few civilians who didn't carry off to the side to cover spine manipulation, infighting strikes and creating and exploiting pockets of space.
  • Blade defense (Marc)
  • Neck manipulation and structure on the ground (Kasey)
One of the themes that had consistently come up was the interplay between movement, structure, leverage and space.  Fighters that can actually use structure in a brawl are rare.  It's not, generally, something that young men grasp and the guys that get it rarely fight.  Good judo players are the exception.  Anyway, a lot of the 99% effective techniques were failing with Kasey (although he is a good uke) Dillon, and me because over the years we've learned to structure instinctively. So Kasey and I decided to do a class exploring how we were preventing or escaping techniques and how it could be used against us.
  • Structure on the Ground (Kasey)
  • Plastic Mind (Me)
  • Size Difference Fighting (Marc)
I know there was some more in here and some stuff I'm taking out of order.

Saturday, we had four new people joining us, and whereas every one of the regulars had agreed to get some sleep and start at ten, I couldn't reach these guys so I was there before eight.  Ran them through the academics-- Violence Dynamics and Context and ConCom.  Steve took most of the physical stuff.  It looked like fun.

Sunday, we met at the Mall of America for an advanced people watching course.  We included the Clothespin Game in the course.  Check out Drills for a description.  We broke into very small groups to draw less attention.  All of the students got a session with each instructor.

This was extraordinary, according to the feedback.  They got four entirely different ways of seeing the same thing and I'm frankly jealous I couldn't be a student for the other instructors.  Kasey used his tactical and sniper experience to show them space.  Marc taught a form of cold reading and evaluating relationships between people.  Steve used his extensive experience watching criminals to point out criminal and pre-criminal behavior and attitudes.  That's what I picked up in the moments I could eavesdrop and what I gathered from the debrief.  I hit:
  • How to expand peripheral vision, including seeing both ways down a corridor when you break a T, and how to look directly behind you 
  • Shadows and reflections
  • Risk assessment as separate from threat assessment
  • Moving without being noticed (stalking in the wild is about not being seen, stalking in crowds is about not being noticed)
  • Active shooter options for civilians
  • Defensive observation in pairs or teams
As you can see, a full week.  I can't even begin to describe how cool the students were.  Open minded, physically gifted, critical, smart.  Could not have wished for more.

Hopefully, I'll have more time for writing.  Things are already percolating.