Sunday, May 31, 2015

Men and Women, Big and Little

Interesting to note that two of the people debating in the comments continued separately on their blogs. 
Men and women are different. A lot of that is biological, a lot of that is social conditioning. And a lot is psychology created in the interaction of biology and social expectations. It doesn’t serve anybody to pretend it is not true. It also doesn’t serve anybody to pretend that it means very much.
Different just means that, given the same problem, you will have different tools to solve it. Viva diversit√©. But if the problem must be solved, you will find a way. That’s what humans do, we adapt.
Do men and women have different fighter/warrior/killer instincts? Sort of. Maybe. My experience actually says no. Sort of. One of the questions I ask in some seminars is how many of the participants have ever had to fight a women for real. Few hands go up and they are almost always street cops or bouncers. Then I ask if they ever want to repeat the experience, and they go a little pale and shake their heads. It seems that it takes a lot more to get a woman to cross the line into physical force, but when she does, she has no internalized rules.
So that’s two differences, I guess. Generally, women are more reluctant to fight than men. And when they do, men tend to focus on the abstract, bullshit social construct of “winning” and women are just there to hurt you. That’s what makes them so dangerous that experienced people pale a little at the memory… but grin when they remember the college kid who took a stance and bragged he was a black belt.
But not that much of a difference, because (and this may be my generation whining about “kids these days”) even most men will not engage under even extreme provocation. The biggest coward I ever worked with was a male, former marine, over six feet tall. And the most fearless was a 5’2” single mom.
Are women more reluctant to engage? Sure. If you take any group that, on average, has less muscle density and is smaller, being eager to engage would not be a sign of intelligence. Smart people avoid damage, and hands-on conflict always has the risk of damage. And any conflict with someone who is likely to lose with words and likely to win with fists has inherent risks. So, yeah, just like a small country or the smallest boy in the red neck school a woman (on average) will avoid confrontation. Not because of her gender but because of her intelligence. And it doesn’t take above average intelligence, either.
And when you are the smallest in a conflict, there are three ways to win that I know of. Technical superiority is the trained option. If you are superb, you can give up a lot in the weight, strength and age departments. But you have to be really good and, more importantly, you have to be really good at exactly the kind of fight that you’re in.
The second is ferocity. Or crazy. Everyone has little internal lines they won’t cross. Even when death is in the air, almost everyone holds back to some extent. There is always a balance between trying to win and trying not to lose and those are incompatible strategies and incompatible worldviews. It’s not always the answer, but if you are willing to go all-in and the threat is not, the threat has a tendency to leave. I think that is why things like nose strikes and groin strikes have been so successful for Leonnie’s WSD students and so dismally unsuccessful in jail fights. The disparity between what the threat expected and what they got became the signal to disengage.
The third is clarity. And clarity doesn’t hurt ferocity and is integral to technical skill. All fighting, anything with an athletic component, is all about efficiency. Efficiency is removing any unnecessary motion whatsoever. Clarity is the mental equivalent. It is knowing yourself-- what you are willing to do and not; why you are fighting and that it is worth all it will cost. It is knowing your goal and your strategy. Not some vague “I want to win this fight” but “Get to the door.”
And it’s not a hyperfocus on a single goal. It is clarity also to recognize when the first choice is no longer an option. That allows you to switch. Effective adaptability is predicated on clarity.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


25 hours (about) into the 40 hour Core Dump in Edmonton. It's going well, and the entire Canada trip deserves an AAR. We've covered some new stuff and some core stuff in new ways. It's working, but it's not "a" thing that's working. It's a convergence of a bunch of different things-- attitudes, philosophy, understanding-- that make it possible. As always, there's more going on than I can see clearly, but here are some of the things.

Philosophy. Nothing about survival or self-protection or self-defense or whatever you want to call it is difficult or unnatural. This is exactly the problem we were evolved to solve. Not being a victim is part of our deepest wiring. Mind, body and spirit have all the tools. This is not about forging warriors, this is about rehabilitating predators.
I can corroborate that eight ways from Sunday, as my dad used to say. Talk to any cop or bouncer who has ever had to fight an untrained woman for real and ask if they want to repeat the experience. Read Strong on Defense and look at what the survivors did and the mindset they tapped into.
 That's for me. But the students have to hear it too, and further, they have to be told a really ugly truth: Almost all of society is set up to perpetually brainwash them so that they never remember their own power.

The physical part isn't hard. It's breaking that damn social conditioning. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone keep fighting after a cupped-hand slap to the ear?  And how long does it take to master that? I've heard of one who kept going after a throat chop. Other strikes are far less reliable, but there is a solid core of 'A' techniques. And even if there wasn't, there are these handy things called "tools". Breaking people is not hard. Our ancestors solved that problem before they were even human.
Rephrase. It's not physically hard. But the social conditioning gets in the way. Almost every officer I've debriefed who got hurt knew exactly what he needed to do, but somehow couldn't make himself act. And that's not even taking into account fear, surprise, or the fact that the bad guy will do his best to psychologically control the victims so they don't fight back.
That is the hard part.

Understanding that most teaching methods work the wrong parts of the brain. Memory, rote, names and labels and techniques mean jack shit in chaos. Technique-based training is the easiest-- for the teacher. And for administrators who need "measurable." But it is possibly the worst possible way to teach people about chaos. Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Four ways to get things into a student's mind and body. Each has a time and place, but each is also useless in other areas.

(And that might be a nice article-- designing drills. Knowing the purpose; knowing which of the four methods are appropriate; checking for pollution e.g. thinking you're using operant conditioning but critiquing turns it into training; and means testing to see if it worked.)

Understanding the problem, obviously. If you don't know attacks, you can't teach SD. Just like you can't teach medicine if you don't know disease and injury. Want to know one of my red flags? If someone shows me what they do and it's clearly based on sparring timing, distance and orientation, then they're just fantasizing.

The partners need training as well. The attacks have to be attacks. You have to be able to project the physical and emotional intensity of grabbing a woman by the throat and slamming her into the wall. Those are the physics she must learn to deal with. That is a taste of the emotional environment in which she will have to deal with those physics. You have a responsibility to be a good bad guy for your partner.

And training tip of the week (or subtle student manipulation, if you want to look at it like that): "You must give your partners good attacks. I know that you're good people and it's hard for you. But if you attack them weak, or slow, or gently, you are literally endangering their lives. Do you want your partner to get hurt because you were so self-conscious you couldn't help her prepare?"
What's subtle about it? The reps of acting ferocious combined with the idea that you are being ferocious for the benefit of someone else will likely also make it easier to slip the leash if you need to for real.

Clear goals. Martial artists try to adapt martial arts to self-defense and usually think of the physical part as just fighting very hard. And fighting has almost nothing to do with it.

Avoidance is best, obviously. Not being chosen as a target, not being isolated if you do get chosen, not allowing yourself to be psychologically controlled. If it goes hands on, well... who would you take out? And how? Shoving down an old lady on a walker and going through her purse? Slamming a drunk tourist's head into the pipe above the urinal? There's almost nothing in the "fight" paradigm for the kinds of attacks that happen. It's a qualitatively different problem. Using the medicine analogy, it's like using a four-week antibiotics regimen for a severed femoral artery. Pre-hospital trauma care is a different skill than fighting disease.

If you know the problem, you can clarify the goals. When it must go hands on, the only sensible options are escape, disable, or control-- and control pretty much only applies to people who have a duty to act and take people into custody. The body mechanics, as well as the mindsets, are very dissimilar between those three. And all are different from fighting. And, for martial artists, that's the second biggest challenge. For most people, the big challenge is getting them to slip the leash and go hands on at all. For martial artists, it's fighting their urge to stand and fight. To get to their preferred distance and orientation and have a duel.
Clarifying the goal, working the body mechanics of escape, for instance, makes the skills pretty easy to get down. But the emotional, social and mental parts are still hard.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Recovery Report

17 days post surgery. ACL replaced, meniscus trimmed. Doc looked around and decided to leave the LCL alone, for now. I've been walking without a brace (most times) for over a week, but don't tell my physical therapist. Strength and passive flexibility are coming back fast. Took myself off the heavy pain meds in less than a week. Ibuprofen now, and that's mostly to help the swelling.

Wes sent me a box of incredibly foul tasting Chinese herbs. No way to tell if they're helping for sure (I'd have to get the same injury again and not take the herbs and compare healing rates) but the PT says he's having trouble keeping up with my progress.

Weird thing with each new exercise-- it takes a moment of concentration the first time I do anything. Like a leg curl. There's a specific place in the back of my knee I had to remind how to move. Or maybe the zombie parts (doc said there was too much damage to replace with my own parts, so I had to use pieces of dead people) needed to get used to taking orders again. Once it was activated, no further problem.

The new repairs are fragile. I'm not supposed to test them. Not even supposed to ride a real bike for another three weeks or try to jog for three more months. That's frustrating, but it makes sense. And the bad things about knees is that you only really find the limits by breaking them. I guess that goes for a lot of things.

Near injury today-- The good leg slipped on the stairs and I reflexively kept myself from falling, by taking all of my falling weight on the bad knee. No pops or snaps or wet ripping noises, but the knee is letting me know it's not happy.

And the surgery is forcing me to rethink some things. Things I've put off thinking about.
Humans have expiration dates. Sometimes I feel like I'm well past mine. But there's some information I want to see spread while I'm still capable of demonstrating it (and can have fun brawling with the people who get it down.) The infighting stuff, mostly. Then the focus will have to switch to mental stuff-- commo, awareness, teaching...

I'm not useless, yet.

On the plus side, I'm getting a lot of writing done. The first draft of "Concepts" is finally finished and out to first readers.

Some stuff coming up that's exciting. Bad time to be injured, but the second iteration of the CRGI Instructor Development Course will be presented in London, Ontario next weekend. A class purely on how to teach emergency skills to adults.
 And  May 16-24 a 40-hour core dump in Edmonton, Alberta. It's something I've been wanting to do for awhile.
Information on both of those is here:

And in June, I'll be team teaching with Tony Blauer. It will be the first time we've met in person. The Convergent Evolution seminar. Some information is here: