Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doing Too Much

Another thought from the seminar:

Watching two young men work a drill in a combative seminar, they were sparring- playing with distance and defense and deception. The drill itself was supposed to be about explosive response to a sudden attack. It only took a few seconds to explain, at least for those purposes, but it got me thinking:

Why is sparring so different from fighting? And why is that so hard to grasp?

Part of the answer is easy to put into words, but it leads to some torturous paths: Sparring is a balancing act. You want to win and simultaneously prevent your opponent from winning. You want to hit and not be hit. It leads to a strategic balance, a sort of math between offense and defense. 50% of your energy and attention goes to offense and 50% goes to defense. An aggressive fighter may balance out more like 70/30. A sly counter-puncher may be 10/90. An experienced martial artist may test an opponent's aggression and then shift his own balance of offense and defense to match or exploit.

Fighting, real fighting, is not a balancing act. The defense in an ambush is inherent in the terrain and the time and the inattention of the victim. The resulting attack is 100% offense- maximum speed, surprise, power and repetition. Martial artists who train for the strategy of the balance between offense and defense are unprepared for this onslaught. They tend to freeze.

They have convinced themselves that their training is preparation for a fight and this situation is clearly a fight and their brain spins back over years of training and finds nothing it can relate to- the speed is wrong, the position is wrong, the pain and debilitation are unlike anything from training, the preparation is non-existant...

Everything in a real fight, everything in life for that matter, is a variable. People try to control variables. This is where it gets convoluted. The four classes of variables- the four factors in a fight- are YOU, the THREAT, the ENVIRONMENT and LUCK. In martial arts, people try to remove the variables of luck and the environment entirely. The training floor is always the same, obstacles are limited or non-existant. You know when and if you will be sparring and what you will be wearing. You warm up and stretch out (your core temperature is part of the environment, don't forget, as well as alcohol level, blood sugar, weariness and mood).

So in a real fight, 50% of the territory (luck and environment) are new territory for the martial artist.

The variables between you and the threat are also controlled in sparring. You know if weapons will be involved or multiple opponents. You know what defines a win and what your opponent is allowed to do.

Many of the big variables left- (strategy, timing...) are internal, imaginary and overly complicated compared to their equivalents in real life. This is a big danger, too: when a martial artist does try to incorporate luck and environment in their own training they often try to make it more complicated than it is (watch a striker try to teach grappling sometime) and at the same time try to limit the variables (this is where you get the technique versus technique or the scripted escape). Example: Martial artist teaching escape from grab from behind can get very fussy about where to grab, where to twist, how to bend... yet completely space that when someone grabs you from behind they immediately apply power to lift, yank or push you. They complicate the escape movements and ignore the variable that the attack is dynamic.

So sparring glosses over fifty percent of the variables you need to understand. Of the variables left- you and the threat- it overcomplicates them into a game of balanced offense and defense (and many more things, too: timing, for instance, is one of the most complicated aspects of sparring but in fighting is dead simple: you hit people when you can or when you have to.)

Compared to the predator who has only one thing to think about- taking you out- splitting your mind between offense and defense is doing too much with limited attention.

That's the easy part, and it's nothing new to people who have experienced an ambush... so why is it so hard for people who love to spar to grasp this?

Monday, July 30, 2007


This is the lates list of keywords used on search engines that found this blog. The ones that were obviously looking for the blog (such as "chiron + blog") have been left out.

What is the fascination with durien, breaking necks, drugs & whores and testicals?

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Love Letters From Prison

People have imaginary dark sides. They think or imagine things, often terribly cruel and vicious, and are ashamed. They rarely talk about these thoughts and imagine, since no one talks about them, they must be unique. They believe that if others knew what they really thought, could see the "true self", friends would be horrified and turn away.
(Especially common in adolescent males, in my experience.)

It's not true. That you imagine shooting every slow person in a crowded store or immolating tailgaters or dismembering loud children is mild stuff. It is fantasy. The simple fact is that everyone can imagine it, but only a very few can or will actually do it. These fantasies are not your true self.

It works the other way, too. One of the early mild shocks in this job was reading mail that inmates would send to their loved ones. They would ask for help with spelling sometimes. I was amazed, because the letters had the depth and imagery and poetry of the love letters that I had sent to K from Basic Training and AIT. Not having read love letters from people other than myself and those sent to me, I'd thought mine were uniquely deep, soul touching and true.

Now I read almost the same words and surely the same sentiments scrawled in pencil and sent from jail.

Sentimental poetry from people who showed the physicality of their love with fists, boots, cigarette lighters and electric cord. Over the years I've read incestuous rapist wax raphsodic (misspelled cliche) to their victims; listened and read tales and dreams of love from people who have prostituted their own children for crack. Compared the written words to the threats over the phone ('You are my angel in a darkness, baby' versus "Bitch, you put money on my books tomorrow or I'l fucking cut your whore face off!").

It's the same. Dark sides. Light sides. Not quite as dark or as light as we pretend. And what we do is the difference. Not how we speak of love, but how we show it. Not what we imagine going violent for, but what we are willing to fight to protect.

Teaching in the Glowy Stage

It's a special challenge to teach something when you are at the stage where it is all new and shiny. It's partly technical- there are few things that I really understood until long after they had lost the brand-new shine. You can teach what you know, but to teach well you need to understand. That's not the same.

(Aside- I have occassionally taught subjects that I barely knew, but only when I knew the students very, very well. There is a deep difference between teaching a subject and teaching a student. More on that later, perhaps.)

The real challenge, though, is controlling your enthusiasm. When you gain an insight or learn a new and wonderful thing you want to share. That's normal and fair enough, but far too often you find yourself sharing your enthusiasm when you think you are sharing the subject. Of the three possible ways to focus teaching, this is the worst. Teaching to the student is good. Teaching to the subject matter also; but when you are teaching your own enthusiasm, the lesson has become about the teacher- and you are the one thing that absolutely will not be there when the student needs the skill.

Enthusiasm is good, it is a source of friendship and passion- but it is also an attachment, artificial unless the students find it for themselves.

It's rarely necessary to express enthusiasm. If you are passionate you will work to understand, and the depth will show without any help.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Mental Than Physical...

I say often that fighting is more mental than physical, especially survival fighting and ambush survival. There is a deep trap there and it needs to be addressed:

Someone will read those words and decide: "Therefore reading and thinking about fighting is just as good as, hell better than, physical training." It is not, and that thought is the same thought that keeps people studying the same things over and over again, the thought that leads to the kool-aide drinking certainty that this (weapon, style, teacher, solution) is it. It is all staying inside the comfort zone. I know there are armchair quarterbacks and lounge generals and things like that in other endeavors, but in martial arts, especially in it's relationship to violence, it seems that the majority act as if thinking were doing. You don't get people who read art books believing they can forge a Rembrandt or that they could front for Aerosmith from watching MTV... sometimes it feels like only in martial arts do you get people who believe that they have learned enough from watching Jackie Chan to defend themselves, have read enough books on ancient swordsmanship that they could kill.

Awareness, initiative and permission (the Big Three) are all mental aspects, not physical, yet knowing is not doing.

I can describe how senses can be overwhelmed and how things can become a blur until you can parrot the descriptions back to your students... but you will have no idea what I mean until you feel it. Of all the people who have read descriptions or even seen documentaries, not once have I seen a person recognize a rattlesnake's warning for the first time. Almost all had an intense surge of adrenaline at the sound, but few knew why- and no one who has ever heard the sound in an unexpected place forgets it. You can read and read about predator dynamics, but until you have been triangulated by threats, the difference between an ambush set up and three people walking in different directions is small, unnoticeable. You can visualize precursors and fights, but until you have seen and felt and smelled one, the visualization is just fantasy, a day dream. For your first ten for that matter, you won't remember them clearly. Your second hundred you will lose faith that they are predictable enought to visualize.

Initiative is a mental decision, but a physical action. Sitting in your comfortable chair in your climate-controlled room, your greatest danger some pixels on a screen it is very easy to decide what you will do if and when... actually doing it is completely unrelated. The only way to learn to act decisively is to practice acting decisively. Quickly, powerfully and without hesitation. It is a mental skill, and the things which interfere with it are mental problems, but the expression of it is purely physical.

Permission- you can try all you want, but you can't intellectualize your own glitches. What you think you can do (or can't) often has no bearing on your real limits when the time comes. Your fantasy self rescues maidens in distress... in real life, when you hear a scream, do you run towards it, run away, or look around to see what others are doing? These are limits you can only find by going into the dark places where they will be tested. If you don't like what you learn there, they can only be changed by returning and trying again.

The culminating moment from the seminar, for me:

After class, I ask each of the students the one thing they will remember. One kid said, "Until I saw the video of the officer dying, I didn't believe it could happen to me. That I could freeze." He always thought that knowing what to do automatically meant he would and could do it. Watching someone die who also, probably, believed this opened his eyes.

The ability to make decisions is not the same as the ability to execute decisions. One pair of eyes, ever so slightly, opened.


Lots to catch up on and lots to write about. It's been over a week and in that time there was one tactical call-out; I planned and taught a seminar; taught a DT class; interviewed potential new members for both the tactical team and the Crisis Negotiation Team; designed questions for the interviews; started reading Epictetus' Discourses; had good talks with family and friends, (including the erstwhile Friday Student- always good insight); a friend was shot (not related to the tactical call-out and why is this not at the top of the list?)... all on top of usual duties and investigations.

Other than vegetating before falling asleep, this feels like the first time I have sat down in about ten days. It feels good. Tactical call-outs are always bad events, interviewing recruits is always very stressful for them and you feel a little cruel doing it (and part of the interview process for these posts is to ramp stress up, because that is a critical factor in what they are volunteering to do)... and there is certainly no good way to find out that a friend is in the hospital, shot on a SWAT operation.

Yet it feels good. I feel useful and necessary in a very real way, something I miss when the office starts to crowd in.

It also gives me more to think about and thus, to write...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Went over the videos we will be using for the seminar with Kevin today. He hadn't seen them before and I didn't really realize it.

The videos themselves are the best examples I could find of the different types of assault. One shows a "Monkey Dance" two men posturing and it comes to blows. One shows a "Group Monkey Dance" where a crowd turns on an outsider who tried to stop a fight. Two of the videos show predatory assaults. One I chose as a great example of the difference in adrenaline responses to attack between men and women. It also shows how easy it is to miss critical detail in the midst of fast action. Another shows a random GMD, again, where what is happening is not clear until after it happens. The last shows a little of what fear can do to your mind.

Two in particular stand out. They have a visceral impact on the people who view them.

The predator video, when I showed it the first time to a room full of officers evoked horror and disgust. I still don't see why. It is horrible- but it is also nothing special. It is a crackhead mugging a fifteen year old girl for her purse. It is brutal, but nothing special. It is simply a predator getting what he wants in the safest and most efficient way. I still don't understand why this bothers officers, especially corrections officers, so much: these are the people that surround them every day. True, we don't see the victims, usually. But we know how the predators attack and we know that when and if one decides to take us out it will follow this pattern- fast and brutal, close range and from surprise.

Watching Kevin, it affected him also, it made him angry. But I know the video is missing the sounds and the smells. I wonder if some of the common freezing reaction to violence might be based on some primitive sense of smell. Why else do people who watch TV speak so confidently of what they would do if and when...and so often freeze like rabbits in the moment? Smell. Sure.

The last video is from the dashboard camera of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller as he is murdered. (Thanks and a plug for http://www.lineofduty.com/ for giving me permission to use this video in my classes). It is chilling in a way that a masterful suspense movie is chilling. There is no gore in the grainy film... but you know what is going on and feel the reality of it.

As a lesson, the key is the 'adrenaline loop' as Deputy Dinkheller begins doing the same thing over and over again when it is clearly not working and will inevitably lead to his death. In the safety of the classroom it is so easy to see what must be done, to look into the future, to make the appropriate and justified decision. And that's the big lesson here- because even if your forebrain knows what to do the hindbrain might be in charge. The hindbrain may only know two things 1)Death is in the air and 2)What you are doing right now hasn't killed you yet.

Given those two facts, the hindbrain is reluctant to change until perhaps, it is too late.

This should be a very interesting class.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Asher writes about how to teach. I was re-reading this:


And thought about times where I've broken. It was always limited- I've never experienced a feeling that my entire identity or entire world view were shattered... at least not in a bad way. That is largely due, I think, to the fact that I've never been 'sure' of anything. The world I understand is only my best explanation so far. Who I am is only what I have done and felt in the situations I have experienced. Neither has ever felt definitive.

There have been times, though, when things or people I loved turned out not to be what I thought. When futures I had dreamed and planned for spiraled to destruction.

One was judo in specific and martial arts in general. I had believed in a warrior mythos, a modern chivalry. That anyone who persevered through training that intense must be cleaner, more ethical, better than those who didn't or couldn't stand the impact and sweat. When I found that some of the very best at this thing that I loved could be human, even less than normally human in some ways, it was a tremendous loss of faith.

I recovered and continued to train by loving what was there. This is the key, why my recovery in these times is usually swift, why I rarely agonize: there was nothing to mourn. There was no loss. The thing that was shattered had never been a true thing. The choice was between wallowing over a shattered illusion or simply loving the real thing that was left. That was any easy choice, really no choice at all.

Strangely, the real thing that is left is always simpler than the thing that was shattered.

Blast From the Past

Reading, "All God's Children" where the author investigates some fairly well-known local murders done by "street families". It's weird, because I know almost every one of the main players in the book. The kid (leader) responsible for the first series of murders was my dorm worker when I was a rookie. Two of the others were largely responsible for me figuring out the dynamics behind the type of violence I call the "Group Monkey Dance". One of the others was discussed constantly at the weekly mental health team meetings. One asked if it would be appropriate to stay in contact from prison (the answer is 'no' FWIW).

The author didn't see the killers the way that I did. Experience, probably, or sampling error. Or the fact that what I learned about their lives and personalities came when they weren't trying to explain themselves to a reporter. Maybe on the street and in a pack they were as she describes them, menacing, tall, strong. Not the scrawny, scared, little kids I remember.

It triggered something, and I went back through some old writings and found this:

"Yesterday- we all have a vision of a vicious killer who can callously beat someone to death. Ever since yesterday, my image will be of a skinny, pale, whiny young man, begging to be put in Protective Custody so "the real criminals in here don't take my food."
Today- a friend and fellow officer who is working at a different facility was stabbed in the face with a pencil. He'll be okay. Still...
Tomorrow- about twenty years ago, Deputy Irv Burkett was shot in the back of the head while attempting to stop an escape. I never met Irv. He trained some of the people that trained me. His funeral is tomorrow. As Van will ask, what are the lessons? That things are never really over, even twenty years later. That things don't look like your fantasies. That it is always a surprise. That everything effects many people over many years, maybe."

Don't mistake understanding for sympathy. That I see them as humans and related well with them does not mean that they were good people or that their punishment should be less harsh. It is what it is. In a society where there is a mutual agreement to believe each other's lies and the strong write rules to exploit the weak, a group can slip into fantasy where they are dark wizards and can torture and kill others who are just as caught up in the fantasy- and can kill outsiders, too, all the while staying in the fantasy.

The same person, removed from that environment where fantasy is supported and excused can become a crying baby.

The Manson-wannabe with dark, cultish authority on the street can be a laughable pretender, afraid of everything behind bars.

Don't mistake understanding for sympathy! Once released, they will gravitate back to this environment where they felt this power and they will become the same things again, only smarter and less likely to be caught.

How strange, though, that the first time I read a book where I know everyone it's about two strings of torture-murders.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Making Notes

In less than two weeks I'll be doing a seminar with Kevin Jackson and Scott Finney. The seminar is Kevin's brainchild: an in-your-face introduction to the difference between sparring and fighting for your life. The difference between training for a belt promotion and training for ambush survival.

It's what I do and something that Kevin understands in a way that many martial artists never really do. They learn the words, but not the music. I don't know Scott but Kevin likes him, and that's enough for me. It will be the first time the three of us teach together. Mac would have been in on it but he's out of town on vacation. that will be a big loss for the students. Mac is special- a combination of skill and experience and irreverance that is phenomenal.

When the plans were first made, I passed some preliminary notes to Kevin. He smiled and said nice things (he always says nice things, he's one of the most positive, high-energy individuals I've ever met... and he can cut you five times in under a second from the draw. I love that.) Last week the fliers came out. They're impressive- and they promise a huge amount of stuff in a short time. From the pre-fight interview to after action debriefing; adrenaline control; multiple opponents and weapons.

Today is closing the gaps, bringing the notes (the plan) and the flyer (the promise) together in a tight package. Time-checking the presentations and videos. Composing handouts. Planning the notes on the dry-erase board. Bullet pointing the most important details to emphasize. Making sure everything is covered.

It's fun. Teaching a new program to new people with new partners is always a blast. July 21st. If you can't make it, I'll let you know how it went here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Unified Fields

This is a fine line, and it could be dangerous if misapplied: many things, on a certain level, are the same. I talk and write incessantly that Martial Arts is not fighting, is not self-defense. That pitched combat is different than a raid and ambushing is different than surviving an ambush. They are different on levels that run so deep that training for one, thinking in the way that is appropriate for one can get you killed in some of the others.

Yet they are all the same.

Threats aren't like normal people- because something worked on you or your partner in the comfort of a clean dojo does not mean that it will work on an enreaged 300-pound biker or a PCP freak.

Yet people are people. Even more, people are animals and the same techniques and awareness that will allow you to manage a pack of dogs will help immeasurably in controlling a jail.

All different and yet all the same.

There is a logic to skilled sparring. I know what you want, how you need to win and within a few seconds I will have a general idea of how you plan to win. Within a few more seconds I will know what you are afraid of, what you think of me and how easily you shift from one strategy to another.

This is basic, and every good martial artist does it within his or her own specialty. For a good fighter, it is very much about understanding the opponenet: what he wants, what his abilities are, what he won't do...

Yet you can take a good fighter out of his regular fighting environment, give him a problem, and all of these skills go out the window. It becomes about me. Why is he doing this to me? Why does he hate me? Me... If I do or say X, what will he think of me.

It's still the same thing. This problem: Who is he? What does he want? What is he willing to do to get it? What will he avoid? You are human enough to make some very good guesses. Only then, just like in sparring- where am I in relation to this, where do I need to be? What do I do and how will he react to that? How do I want him to react? Most important, possibly, in any conflict is the simple question: "What is my goal here?"

These things are very universal (also universal is the rule that if the plan isn't working, change plans quickly).

When you look for the universals, there are skills and insights and strategies that transfer.

A Grinch for All Seasons

As a kid, the Fourth of July is all about picnics and fireworks. Halloween is about costumes and candy and staying up late. Christmas about presents. Thanksgiving about food and relatives you haven't seen in a long time...

Last night my lovely wife mentioned that I was a Grinch for all holidays. I know the show of the holidays are important to her and I remember the fun of childhood, but as I get older, things have other meanings and I have other ways of showing my feelings.

New Years day- just a date.

Valentines- Every day is and should be Valentines. This is one that I try to make special for K because she likes the show- but she makes every day special.

St. Patrick's Day- I was raised as a rabid Irish nationalist, without necessarily having any information. Just a family tradition. Since I don't enjoy crowds, it's now just a day to have a glass of Jamesons on the deck.

Somewhere in here, maybe on the equinox, maybe not, there will be one day that feels like spring, a day of no rain and fresh wind and new green- and that day is holy beyond anything that can be put on a calendar.

Easter- I'm a little old and done with reproduction to get into a pagan fertility festival, but I still feel a responsibility to have rockin' good sex on Easter.

Mother's Day- Should be every day, but again it is about the show for the mothers who want it.

Memorial Day- A quiet one for me, where I spend some time remembering our dead, the ones who died for all of us. Read some of the accounts, and try to appreciate a price paid that I can never fully understand.

Father's Day- Being a father is a blast. Having Fathers day is kind of like throwing a party to celebrate throwing a party. It makes no sense to me.

Independence Day- This is the day for the annual reading of the Constitution and the amendments. We forget what a great and daring experiment the Constitution was and what the people who signed it risked and often lost. We are the beneficiaries of great wisdom, great sacrifice and it was truly the dawn of a new world... even our whining is based on principles that were inconceivable before 1776.

ABBB- The August Babies Birthday Bash. A pure celebration of friendship, with old and new stories; songs; belly dancing; a dancing lobster; fine scotch and a pile of meat.

Some day around the equinox in September there will be another sacred day- clear and cold and windy. On that day, if I can, I will walk until I see something magic, and there is always a danger that I won't return, because Autumn is my wandering time.

Halloween is the time to honor my dead. It is a time for memories and light mourning, usually alone and outside.

Thanksgiving- The original Plymouth colony suffered fifty percent mortality in their first winter. It is the time to give thanks for being among the living, for remembering and treasuring the unique events of the past year that will affect your future.

Pearl Harbor Day- An inside joke, but one of my most important holidays, "A day that will live in infamy..."

Yule- On the darkest night you take stock of your stores and, if all is well, celebrate that you and yours will live through the rest of the winter. It is time for remembering the last year and planning the next; for making sure that you are right with the gods/spirits or ethics that you wish in your life. There are many ways of taking stock.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Looking Good While Failing

I'm too close to this to really write about it in a straightforward manner. The knowledge comes from things that are confidential. Yet this is really important, something that is daily eroding... what? Civilization? The American Dream? My faith in government and my fellow man?

Maybe process over product is just business as usual for the world at large and it only offends me.

Have you ever wondered how criminal defense attorneys can do what they do? Their job is to make sure that as many rapists, murderers, burglars and drug dealers walk the street as possible. I've wondered and I've asked them. The reply is almost universal- they serve a machine called justice and they are the lone guardians to prevent the evil power of the state from arbitrarily crushing the little guy. Their job is not to defend the accused, but to force the authorities to behave properly and prove the allegations. They are, in a deeper way, defending the system. Some even try to sound noble about it.

I don't have a problem with that. In essence, I am a tool of the state specially authorized to use force to maintain order and prevent predation. That's a lot of potential power and it is good and necessary for there to be checks, balances and critical eyes on how I use that power.

But what if that argument went to absurdity? What if a murderer/rapist with his semen on the victim, her blood on his clothes and pieces of his skin under the victim's fingernails would walk if there was a misspelled word in a report? What if the prosecution were only allowed to testify with impersonal facts and the defense could bring in emotions, the effect of a conviction on an elderly mother and personally attack unrelated aspects of the prosecution's character: "Officer, you've arrested seventeen rapists. Do you have a problem with rape? Is this some kind of personal vendetta?"

What if the judge were required (or just chose to) give equal weight to all arguments whether they were based on fact or emotion? Even if they were blatant lies (but only from the defense side, because of the great responsibility of keeping in check the power of authority).

There is a section of our society where this is happening. (READ WELL- THIS IS NOT HAPPENING IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. THAT WAS JUST THE CLOSEST ANALOGY I COULD FIND THAT WOULD BE FAMILIAR) I just got a taste of the statistics and it looks like a 96% rate of finding for the defendant, some of whom have done outrageous things.

That's unacceptable and it's disfunctional. Worse is the reaction to it.

I'm a tactical guy. I can't survive a 96% failure rate. When what you are doing isn't working, you need to change something. Anything else is insanity. You either change what you are doing or you change the environment. Using the court analogy, if you can't change the way you present cases, you change the way cases are decided. Change the way judges are chosen, something.

Scary? Messing with any institution is scary. In the anaolgy, though, it means that 96% of predators would be out on the hunt. The word that this is the situation encourages more to give the dark side a try. The guys being good see no penalty for being bad and feel worthless, marginalized and taken advantage of.

The response in real life is to do the same thing as always, just 'better'. "We lost that one on a misspelled word, so let's use that spell check next time, people!" The failures are looking better and better all the time. But they're still failures.

I'm not sure what to do about this. People are getting hurt because a system has lost sight of what it was originally designed to do- protect people. All the players in the system have their turf, they are entrenched in a system with a huge amount of legal precedent. One side is perhaps the biggest political player there is... they will defend their role, as they see it, mightily.

And all the while, people are getting hurt.


Just to make it official (for whatever reason I posted it on Uechi and BudoSeek last week): Last week I signed the contract with YMAA publishers. Barring disaster, the book will be out next year.

Happy Independence, Day.

To celebrate, read the Constitution.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Thinking out loud about what I'm doing here. The blog started as a way to get some stuff out of my system. To take some dark stuff out of my head and let other people poke at it for awhile. It hasn't been able to be all dark stuff, though, because my life is beautiful and fun and that needs to be shared as well.

Sometimes you have to look at yourself from outside and one way to do that is to read old journals, diaries and blogs. Not for the words or what seemed important at the time. Look for the things that pop up again and again. Those are the themes that are important to you over time.

CRIMINALS- is a big theme here. Not crime so much- I rarely deal with crime scenes or criminal investigations- but how criminals think, how they see themselves, how they do what they do both physically/tactically and emotionally/cognitively.

VIOLENCE- goes hand in hand with criminals and it plays off of another theme, martial arts. Violence fascinates me because it is such a huge part of our culture and our identity and yet so few people know anything about it.

COP STUFF- This ties in, too. Like violence, everyone thinks that they know something about it, but generally their sources have been nothing but entertainment. When this comes up it is almost always because someone publicly (often on the news) made a statement that is brain dead in the reality of the job. For some reason I feel compelled to explain because, if this was the world of TV cop-dramas, fiction and Dr. Phil, the statement might work. Too many people feel that this world is 'pretty much like' TV. They would never say that and deny it on direct question... but it shows in who they listen to and what they choose to believe.

MARTIAL ARTS- It started with Judo over twenty-five years ago and it has been an obsession, and an addiction for almost all of that time. For the last fifteen years, it's been interacting with violence and leaving me wondering- what is martial arts? What does it try to be? What does that mean? Is it about the student in the class or the same student in an ambush? Or is it about the instructor and the revenues? Or the lineage? How much do the skills apply to violence? The tactics? The mindset(s)? The world view?

TEACHING- and this feeds off of MA: is there a better way to teach violence? What to keep and discard from a MA curriculum (and the always very real possibility that if I discard something it is not because of its failures but maybe because I don't understand it yet). How do you get things into someone else's head? The amazing things you learn in the process of teaching.

FUNNY STORIES- I can't put them all here. Many cool things happen almost every day. Hmmm, a clue. Humor is on the board but a low value item for Rory.

TRUE LOVE- I could put much more here than I do. This isn't a low priority as much as I am a selfish and private creature. With both love and friends my life often feels like a work of juvenile fiction. It's that good. Move along citizens, nothing to see here.

HOW DIFFERENT...These are some of the things I puzzle over the most. I'm aware that I don't think like everyone else. My lovely wife says, "You need to understand, Rory was raised by coyotes." A deputy I worked with for a long time used to tell rookies, "Sarge is what happens when you raise a kid without television." How much is experience? How much a probable Asberger's Syndrome? When I see the world one way and the rest of the world doesn't, who is right? (Me, of course. Duh.) Can I explain precisely where the differences arose and what they mean? Would it help if I did?

Is there more? Could be, there are many things I'm interested in: herbal medicine, emergency medicine, small farming, history, hiking, climbing, diving, caving, paragliding, writing, fatherhood, animals... on and on.

Any big themes I've missed here, things so obvious that I can't see them?