Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Big Three

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know how much time I spend on training and planning training and figuring out what training is. I work and largely live in a violent environment, so the focus is and always has been on dealing with violence. Three different threads came together today, the big three. It is still fresh in my mind and it will take awhile before I am sure how powerful this is, but it's big.

AWARENESS, as a training system comes from Mac. At the most basic level it is awareness of what your body can do, awareness of what the threat is, what the threat is doing and what you can do to the threat and awareness of the context and environment. In this mode you learn technique not so that you can repeat them, but so that you recognize their application, precursors and opportunities to apply them. This broad view applies not only to technique but to the next levels also- tactics, strategy and deeper beliefs and goals.

INITIATIVE as a system comes from Jeff, a deputy US Marshall. You do what needs to be done without hesitation. It doesn't matter if it is not what you planned or things aren't going well. In each instant, something needs to be done and you do it. At the technique level, this is acting decisively and without hesitation or telegraph regardless of the technique used. At the tactical level it is explosive entry. At the strategic level it is "shock & awe". At the meta level it is deciding what is worth fighting, dying or killing for long before the subject comes up and acting decisively when the line is crossed.

The third leg of this tripod is PERMISSION. I've written about it before. You must let yourself act. There is an old article, I believe from the Utne reader about "what happens when violence calls and politeness answers'" in which the author describes her rape and at each stage that she could have acted did not because it 'would be rude'. She wanted to slam her door in the stranger's face, but that would be rude... and he pushed past her into the apartment. Permission is powerful and huge, especially in combination with the other two systems. I'm still working on how pervasive a power, a crutch and a blindfold it can be. Probably will be for life.

Initiative and awareness in combination allow the predator dynamic. They allow the explosive counter-attack that can save a victim from a hopeless situation. Together, they allow for devastating and explosive applications of skill that push the very edge of what is possible.

Permission and awareness go beyond that. I've already written about the agreements and subconscious human dynamics that affect violent behavior. The awareness of which are artificial and permission to break them combine to access a nearly superhuman ability. It is not that you can suddenly do what humans can't, it's that you can do what humans choose to believe they can't do. Serious, skilled combative martial artists have said that small joint locks can't be used in a real fight, but I've done it, even one-handed on threats who outweighed me by a bunch. You will be told that if you go up unarmed against a threat with a knife, you will be cut, yet I stand at five without a scratch. More importantly is context- the rule is that you cannot take someone down who is in excited delerium without a mass of officers or good weapons... but not only have I done it a couple of times I've talked even more down- I was aware that the context (excited delerium produces a frenzied rage and inability to listen or reason), close quarters etc dictated a certain kind of response ONLY if I agreed. I gave myself permission NOT to agree and turned fights into talks. CAVEAT- NOT every time. Nothing is 100%.

Permission and initiative combine to produce a force of nature. This is inhuman and hard to describe. You do what needs to be done without regard for whether it is possible, because 9/10ths of your "impossibilities" are imaginary. Strange that a 110 pound girl believes that she can't hurt a 200 pound man, but an eight-pound cat (especially if you dump a bucket of water on it) can and it will do so without hesitation. A small woman can punch hard enough to break ribs and it is far less a matter of 'know-how' than it is of deciding to injure and then letting herself do it. This, really, is what has allowed me to go up against PCP freaks- in the end, the critical difference between me and them is that they have completely lost their allegiance to regular human suppositions about what is and isn't true, is and isn't possible. They lose theirs through chemicals and sometimes I can give mine up and even the playing field.

None of this is new, in a way. I've done each piece of this at times- I've just never seen it before. Never looked at the negative space of my actions. I very rarely talk about the "twilight zone" of violence, the incredibly weird things that happen, some seemingly impossible. One of those stories is about the time I saw a threat start to punch at my partner. Everything went in slow motion. I took two long steps, shoved my partner out of the way and caught the fist in mid-air. By conventional wisdom, this was impossible. Action beats reaction, and I didn't start to move until after the threat had started the punch. In addition, you can't take two long steps and push someone out of the way in the time it takes someone to throw a short left hook. But that one time I did. That experience has always been in the twilight zone- how the hell did that happen? How strange is that. Looking at it from this perspective, it was just permission and initiative and the question becomes "Why don't I do that all the time?"

I do know the answer to that question, BTW.

Even more, assuming this is right and as important as I feel it is right now... can it be taught and transmitted? I can give you permission to act and show you how a lock or a pin is an agreement and that works pretty well, but how well does it work when I tell you that you don't need to be a victim? That you can change your world. That you can do the impossible every day.


Anonymous said...

Teach me how not to become shaky and stupid when faced with a threat - whether perceived or real. I saw a Jet Li movie called "Unleashed" which deals with the same thing you mentioned once - become an animal to overcome human inadequacies. I think this is my best angle at conquering this inadequacy.. I just don't know how to test it.

Rory said...

What does it say that the only frame of reference for so many discussing this subject is a movie?

You will never get over the stress reaction, you will only acclimatize to it in certain situations. The situation changes and it comes back.

So you live. Meet and know as many people from as many different lives as you can. Listen to them instead of trying to impress them. Try new things.

Train at something, train hard whether it is music, dance or martial arts- sweat. Play football and revel in the impact and the bruises.

Raise dogs and learn how they think; then raise cats and learn how they think. Then raise a child and learn it all over again.

It's an inadequacy if you decide it is. It's a data point or an experience if you decide it is.

If you are in a half sleep and you imagine a cave entrance and feel a surge of pure terror, it's a panic attack... unless you are in spiritual training in which case the fear is a sign that great knowledge is beyond the opening.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I am pathetic because I watch movies :(

Haha, okay I will try and do what you say. Except for raising children. Good God no children!

Anonymous said...

%There's two ways to accompish this: experience and knowledge. One must must place oneself in events where adrenaline flows - where you want to freeze - but get past it (there are several drills for this). Knowledge is inner and outer; outer: study, watch, train, discuss, strive; inner - find a meditation type that transcends the boundaries of consciousness because knowlege is structured in consciousness. Expand the inner boundaries and the knowledge and abilities that lie hidden will be revealed. We all know this, but few have the patience for the long haul of gaining inner awareness. You'll spend decades studying how to punch properly, but give up inside a week when you start to practice meditation? Balance. Centering. It's really very simple - outer knowlege and experience puts money in the bank; inner experience invests that money at high rates of interest.

Wael said...

Awesome and eye-opening piece of writing. I'll be thinking about this a lot. Once, many years ago, I saw a man being attacked by a group of men on a dark street. I called the police but I did not personally step forward, in part because I had a woman with me. But I wonder, what if I had dispensed with the conventional wisdom about being outnumbered, and just moved forward, without doubt or hesitation? What would have been possible? Beyond that, there are certain things I put up with in everyday life - someone standing too close behind me in line, for example - because I don't want to be rude by speaking up. Anyway... I'm rambling, but you've given me something big to think about.