Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Justified, Justifiable, Prudent and Smart

Wrote this a couple of weeks ago and then got asked by David at YMAA to avoid mentioning the video Scaling Force. They were doing some kind of publicity experiment and didn't want the numbers influenced.

Lawrence Kane called this morning. Last summer, we shot a video tie-in to the Scaling Force book. David Silver at YMAA is working on the magic post production stuff and just sent us the rough cut. Lawrence wasn't able to fly out for the filming, so seeing the rough cut was his first exposure to the physical stuff filmed. And he wants to move a piece right up front. And that would open a whole can of worms.

"Scaling Force" was Lawrence's brain child. Force/violence is a big issue, and appropriate responses to force or threatened force range from doing nothing (sometimes just being a witness makes bad people stop) all the way up to deadly force. Lawrence noticed that most martial arts concentrate at only one or two of the appropriate levels of response. Boxing really doesn't have good tools for taking the keys from your favorite drunken uncle at a New Years party.

It's easy to read the book as legalese-- "deadly force" and "self-defense",  just to give two examples, are legal terms. The actual goal was to get people unfamiliar with the context a little exposure to the different possible levels. Low levels of force, like presence and verbal, are very idiosyncratic. High pitched and low pitched voices can't be used in the same way. Both can work, but not always in the same instances or using the same phrases. Physical people present differently than sedentary people.

And high levels of force are only appropriate in very bad situations. The essence of self-defense is that things are going bad. You are behind the curve. The threat is bigger and stronger and/or armed and/or crazy and/or multiple. You are surprised and almost certainly off balance with minimal room to run or maneuver, no time to evaluate and plan, with compromised structure and likely injured before you knew it was on. If you are working in your weight class with good lighting, footing, room, some time, equal numbers and equal weapons, it's a mutual fight, not self-defense.

Anyway, towards the end of the video, we demonstrate fighting out of a crowd. It's not really fighting, and you have to be careful with language here. It's a lot closer to swimming. If I try to fight a mass of people, I'll get overwhelmed. But you can move through them. It's just that the body mechanics of fighting are very close to the opposite of what you need here.

Lawrence thought it was cool and unique and should be near the front of the video. I'm cool with that. Really the whole marketing and capturing attention and drama is all a little above my paygrade. But it does open a can of worms. And here's the can of worms.

Justified and justifiable are not always the same thing. In 1992, the Oregonian surveyed Portland Police officers. One of the details: In the four years before the survey, 86% said they could have fired with full legal justification but chose not to. There are some implications of that-- for every 28 shootings, officers bet their lives they could find another way about 900 times. And were largely successful except, of course, dead officers don't get to fill out surveys.

So first hurdle, because something is justifiable doesn't mean you couldn't find another way. My personal definition, Justifiable means I could convince a jury, Justified means I can convince myself there was no other way out. Prudent means it would be stupid to go in at a lower level.

The thing with fighting out of a crowd is that it shows another level. Getting pounded by eight people is a huge disparity of force. Unless they are all kindergardeners or geriatrics in walkers, it's not hard to justify deadly force. In general, higher levels force are quicker, easier and more effective than lower levels. You might win an argument with words (verbal), but you will certainly win it with a shotgun. Shotguns also tend to trump other hand to hand skills. Where it can take years to get good enough to fight a boxer, it takes hours or less to get good enough to shoot one. Higher levels of force-- quicker, easier, more certain. But the higher level of force, the more it takes to justify it.

But sometimes the higher level of force can be completely justified, completely prudent, but not the smart thing to do. Like fighting out of a crowd. I'm decent at close quarters stuff. That's my range and I know how to deliver power there. Know how to use one guy as a meat shield against the others. No hesitation on going for the quick finishers. Even have some favorite power generations that are completely non-static. Feet don't even need to be touching the ground. But in that mass, with all of those variables, with any kinetic energy I deliver changing the physics of my motion, things will go wrong. Someone who goes down might tangle my legs. A push or strike on my part might make me a static target for just an instant.

Hence the swim and it works.

People like rules of thumb. And rules of thumb work reliably enough to, well, become rules of thumb. "High levels of force are faster, safer and more effective than lower levels" is a good rule of thumb. But like all of them, it has a failure point. A situation where something else becomes true. Or truer.

Fast forward to a short conversation with Edwin yesterday. From the Golden Move standard (each motion should protect you, damage the threat, better your position and worsen his) given that sometimes you just can't get all four, or all four aren't prudent, how do you prioritize?

You can't give a quick rule for that. Goals, parameters and environment change. Sometimes it's so important to finish things quickly that it's worth taking damage to do so. (And, less academic, you're probably going to take some damage anyway, so suck it up, Buttercup. But that said taking damage unnecessarily is, by definition, unnecessary. Smart people don't do it.) Sometimes, fighting out of a shitty position is more important than ending the threat. Better to do both, but if you're with a bad guy in a burning, collapsing building and damage to him will cost you even a second, improve your position.

Maybe justified and justifiable can be subsumed under smart. Do the smart thing. If it's not justifiable and you either can't live with yourself or you go to prison... hmmm, maybe it wasn't all that smart? Justifying--articulation-- then becomes the skill. Do the smartest thing you're capable of, but practice explaining why it was the best available option.

And maybe, in the end, smart is the wrong word too. Maybe just necessary.

(David even sent the embed link below. No idea if it will work.)


Charles James said...

Hi, Rory: The link works, kinda. In my browser, and all browsers as you are aware don't all work the same, it cuts off the right edge. You can still click the LINK of the title above the frame and it will open in a tab on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLfVAvDMzKBJ3FgjB9YDqH6Ba2BvDJ_pTn&v=BrQH4txsuhU#t=21

Just so you are aware.

Oh, yea, as always this is just plain good posting, thanks!

Elenor said...

Please please PLEASE lower the volume of that not-quite-music. For folks watching with headphones -- the "music" is so loud it's hard to follow the talk! Music is not needed to make this info important and attention grabbing!

I am really looking forward to this video -- your books are fantastic and I am learning so much! (Just finished Guide for Writers, and am reading both Scaled and Meditations! You're a great writer, Rory!)