Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Nod to Dave

Dave Chesser at http://formosaneijia.com shared an experience that's worth looking at.  Not for what happened, there are too few details, but for what everyone chose to see:

I had this debate with a Special Forces guy when I was a mental health counselor in the Army. I was telling him of a fellow enlisted counselor that I worked with who had done an amazing thing with our aikido-based takedown training. One day a disgruntled patient had walked into the clinic and pulled a gun on the receptionist. The soldier/counselor I worked with had taken control of the gun, threw the patient to the ground and subdued him with no shots fired and no one got hurt. The only other training this soldier had was some high school wrestling.  

I related this incident to the Spec Ops guy and he just laughed. That wasn’t REAL martial arts, he said, and intimated that my friend was lucky he and other people weren’t dead. He then went on to describe the Special Forces training he received, and it became clear to me that martial arts to him meant snapping sentries’ necks and killing others in the quickest fashion possible. With a clear intent to kill, he felt this enraged patient deserved the same himself, and not to use that level of force was to put others at risk.

I quickly realized that he and I were training for completely different contexts.

I like this because too many people assume that for some reason SF or SWAT or whatever training is in some way "more real" than... what?  Reality is reality.  The counselor pulled it off in real time for real stakes with damn little room for error.  That's real.

And we have a guy arguing from training (anything in the above to indicate the SF guy had ever been deployed?  Ever been on a mission that screwed up so badly that he had to go unarmed against an armed man?) that the experience was somehow invalid.  He made good points, making points is easy- but he is arguing with success in an environment where he may have been killed using his tactics (and probably would have been sued, successful or not) and there is no way to know.  No way to know if the counselor could pull it off a second time, no way to know if the SF guy could have pulled it off once.

That uncertainty terrifies humans.  When arguments arise out of this (and, for the record, I don't think Steve and I are having an argument or even debating, we are looking for the bridge between our experiences) it is because people are whistling in the dark, hiding behind talismans from this fear.  

You can never know.  You can believe, you can trust.  You can have an edge.  But you can't know, and you can't even know how big your edge is- or if this is the one fight in a thousand where your edge is a vulnerability.

...he just laughed. That wasn’t REAL martial arts, he said... this burns me, a little.  He implies that REAL would be better, but what could be a better outcome?  He also equates REAL with his "realistic" training, and that training as more real than real.  I sometimes wish that when people catch themselves in a contradiction like this that their brains would implode.  Maybe it would happen if they could only see it.

Dave deals with it with his characteristic wisdom: I quickly realized that he and I were training for completely different contexts. In anything, context is critical, sometimes context is more critical than the event: If a 200 pound guy picks you up, slams you into the ground and begins strangling you, you shoot him.  Clearly self-defense... unless it is a judo randori, in which case it is murder.

I believe that the SF soldier cripples himself when he chooses to believe that his training is more real than real.

I believe his instructors at some point told him that he was training for the "real thing" and that helped to close his mind. (Caveat- I see this as intensified in martial arts where often students are taught one definition of a win, e.g. KO, submission, ippon; work in one environment; and under one set of rules and extrapolate this snap shot to the vast world of violence. Military/LEOs sometimes expand these, but rarely enough. They usually deal with only a slightly larger picture.)

I believe deciding to train to only a certain set of problems (I don't live in a high crime area so I can skip the nasty stuff) is a form of denial.  A small woman who wants to survive a home invasion attack may need a level of ruthlessness and ferocious technique that would make the SF guy faint.

Here's that uncertainty terror again: You don't get to pick which bad things will happen in your life.  Deciding that you are prepared for what is essentially unknowable is talisman thinking.

Last- the greatest skill a martial artist can develop and the greatest gift an instructor can give a student is permission to see and respond to what is actually happening.  Permission to break any 'always' or 'never' when it is clearly not working. Permission to respond lethally or to not fight at all as required and the judgment to tell, in the moment which is required.


Anonymous said...

Rory, I understand what you're talking about. I really do.

My problem comes in - how do you handle it when people are training for something completely inappropriately? To use an absurd example - say to survive a gunfight by using kung fu?

To me, meeting lethal force with less than lethal is a recipe for disaster. You may pull it off, but that doesn't necessarily validate the training. Sometimes (I speak from experience here) you survive in spite of what you did, not because of it.

So how do we reconcile what I believe to be the truth of what you posted with the truth that I believe I posted?

Or am I whistling Dixie?

Rory said...

Not whistling Dixie.

Stupid is as stupid does... but sometimes stupid works... but if it worked it wasn't stupid...

And in the end, a damn fine person can make no mistakes and walk around a corner and get a face full of buckshot.

Meeting lethal force with less than lethal is a disadvantage with a very high potential price. A study I am digesting says that (numbers from memory) that the average officer would have to work 120 years before he would use lethal force, but the average patrol officer could justify using lethal force 20 times a year.

On one level that's great and heroic... except for the time when the gamble fails and we bury another officer.

I know you understand me, MG. The thing about this subject is that it is so huge and chaotic and chaos is a breeding ground for luck and flukes.

There's not much here to reconcile because we are talking about different things. In training, you train for the sensible thing: a thorough quick understanding of the problem; choosing the safest effective option; multiple contingency plans if that option is unavailable or fails...

I was concerned, in this post, with people who hide behind their training: the counselor took a risky option (quite possibly his only available option) and made it work. A professional would be asking how. Mindset? Speed?
The SF soldier was marking off his territory. People have died going for the neck-snap option. To deny one's own possibility for failure while at the same time denigrating someone else's success because it doesn't fit your pattern is ... childish? Immature? Betting your life on faith? Bigoted is the word that comes closest for me, but it has too many connotations in our culture. I wish we had a word for "denying reality in order to preserve preconceptions" in English.

Easy, for me at least, to reconcile: Train hard, keep your eyes open for both- things you might not have thought of and things you hold true that may not be.

And in the end, I can only try to not train deliberately stupid and be as adaptable as possible.

Anonymous said...

"Not deliberately stupid?" Where were you twenty years ago Rory when I really needed you. :)

Oh, and can I get my mitts on that study too?

Anonymous said...

Forward of an email to me regarding an armed pilot's encounter at home (while unarmed):

After San Juan one day 757 trip, I was home with entire family, had dinner, and went outside to adjust landscape lights and Christmas decorations on front of house.

Walked straight across street and stood on sidewalk to view results.

At 2010 local time, dark minivan (lights out) pulled up and sliding door flung open.

Hispanic (I think) wearing bandana jumped out and commanded me to get into the van. I issued a few choice words as gun was rapidly placed to front of head. (there were two or three of them) and yelling started as I instinctively grabbed muzzle of weapon with both hands and raised it upward as first round was fired. I attempted to maintain control of weapon.

Bullet grazed top of my head and major bleeding commenced.

Down we went to sidewalk...his face first. Sounded like dropping a watermelon. Fight's on. Second round went off and entered my right side (waist level) and exited seven inches below entry wound. Now I can't see very well because of blood in eyes, but I knew I was not going to get in van with these very bad men.

Right seat guy jumped out and I thought this might be the end, but he grabbed his buddy and they jumped into back of van and speed off, retaining his weapon, still no lights on car, therefore no ID nor tag number. Start to finish lasted no more than 15 seconds!

Good, they are gone but I don't know how bad it is. It was strange...no pain yet, but I think the adrenaline surge was masking the wounds. Next door neighbor,an MD, was in yard and heard shots fired, so he went inside and called 911. My daughters also heard shots fired from inside our house and they saw me lying on the sidewalk face up and bolted to my side. That was scary. And then the people stared arriving.

EMT's, fire department and many police officers. Crime scene was roped off as EMT's completely cut away my clothes down to skivvies. They were very worried that abdominal wound pierced organs, but fortunately it was a clean entry and exit. Neither round was found nor any bullet casings, causing us to believe it was a cheap .32 revolver.

Got ride to CMC hospital with siren on and spent many hours there. Hands and face banged up pretty bad during fight, but CAT scan and many x-rays proved nothing broken. Staff wanted me to stay a day, but I said no way. Just get me home and let me get cleaned up.

Family was great and relieved. After 25 years of perfect attendance at US Airways, finally had to call in sick for a trip. Bummer

Gang initiation is a possibility here....or just money, but we'll never know. Newspaper mistakenly reported this as simple robbery...it wasn't. Neighborhood association issued emergency bulletin about a wallet robbery gone bad...it wasn't. This was the real deal.

Bottom line...FFDO training kicked in and most importantly tell your loved ones to never get in the car and always fight to the end. Never give in.

Stay alert...Stay alive!

Dan Gambiera said...

Did it work?
Did it work more than once or twice?
Did you get a result you wanted?
Was it appropriate for the situation?
Did the solution solve more problems than it created?
Were you better off because of what you'd learned at the end of the day?

If the answers are all more mostly "yes" it's hard to criticize.

"The best refrigerator in the world makes a lousy screwdriver." The Special Forces guy has a different job that calls for different tools. I hope he doesn't go into law enforcement when he leaves the military. "He yelled at me, so I made him a quadriplegic" or "The suspect was drunk and disorderly, so I killed him" is, well, a pretty fucking stupid way to do things.

Anonymous said...

I train in and teach jujitsu. Our curriculum includes unarmed knife and gun defense. Why would we do that, are we just being stupid and unrealistic?

First, these drills tend to sharpen the basic skills and clearly highlight any deficiencies. They are a way of increasing the pressure, like playing loud music during a shoot. They are a very good way of introducing and training several mental qualities, such as noticing and even creating attentional gaps. We train them to keep going even if they are shot or stabbed, and trust me, most people need to train that.

We like to say that these defenses are for someone who is trying to intimidate you with a gun, since if they wanted to shoot you, they would shoot you before you could ever get close to them.

I think that our students get "shot" or "stabbed" enough that they have a fairly realistic view of what they can and can't do, and we highly recommend "Nike"-waza in such situations.

Anonymous said...

[quote]ldf: My problem comes in - how do you handle it when people are training for something completely inappropriately? To use an absurd example - say to survive a gunfight by using kung fu?[/quote]

as opposed to my problem of teaching ordinary middle class folks in a very safe city to take training seriously beyond the technicalities of looking 'good' or 'correct' for the "art." I fI ramped it up, I woul dloose people and my class is too small now.

It bothers me that the baddest guy on the floor is 60 years old and hasn't had to manage physical violence in 15 years. Hell, I don't even know how a bar fight develops in our town any more, (sigh).

Because we have no reference point from experience, ordinary introductory karate looks like amazing self defence.

The best I can give them is to prepare them to be able to learn quickly if they enter a high risk profession.

Dave Chesser said...

Thanks for the hat tip here.

The SF guy may have been new, I'm not sure. It was always hard to figure out when they were bloviating or when they were telling the truth. Part of being SF is apparently maintaining that persona. I can understand that.

I agree that what my fellow counselor did was successful, so it's kind of hard to argue against it. But I think the SF guy's point was that the disarm could have gone very wrong. Still, we were in the clinic and no one was armed, so what could anyone do? The counselor did what he was trained to do and it worked. BTW, I should re-emphasize that he was a high school wrestler. I think that played a big part.

I chose that discussion because, as you say, the point made was about one reality being more real than another. But you handled the thrust of the SF guy's argument much better than I did. The randori example is great.

Anonymous said...

Here's another story that turned out well that I believe probably should not have. It worked, but I wouldn't recommend it...

Held suspect at grocery store until police officers arrived

© 2008 WorldNetDaily.com

A grocery store customer in Indianapolis is being credited with halting an armed robbery by pulling his own weapon and pointing it at the assailant until police arrived.

According to a report in the Indianapolis Star, Charlie Merrell, 51, was in a checkout line at a grocery store called Bucks IGA on the city's south side when a "masked man jumped a nearby counter and held a gun on a store employee."

The police report cited by the newspaper said the incident happened at 5:17 in the afternoon Monday as Merrell was doing some year-end shopping.

"While the suspect was demanding cash from the workers," according to the police report, "Merrell pulled his own handgun, pointed it at the robber and ordered him to put down his weapon."

The newspaper noted that Officer Jason Bockting, in his documentation of the incident, said when the suspect seemed to hesitate, "Merrell racked the slide on his gun to load a round in the chamber."

At that point, the report said, "the suspect placed his gun and a bag of cash on the counter, dropping some of the money … the suspect removed his mask and lay on the floor."

Merrill, meanwhile, held the suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived and took him away in handcuffs.

Police reported Merrell had a valid permit to carry the handgun, and they recovered an unloaded .380-caliber handgun and $779 cash from the suspect.

Police records show Dwain Smith, 19, was being held in the Marion County Jail on a bond of $30,000 on initial charges of robbery, criminal confinement, pointing a firearm, battery and carrying a handgun without a license.

Steve Perry said...

"Deciding that you are prepared for what is essentially unknowable is talisman thinking."

As I understand it, a talisman is some kind of charm, could be a ring or a pendant, bracelet, etc. that is supposed to confer some kind of magic upon the possessor -- usually in the realm of bringing good luck.

Having faith in a good-luck charm without any evidence that such things actually work is not quite the same in having faith in one's ability to move, based on much practice at moving.

Yes, extrapolating from the known to the unknown isn't perfect, there's always that X-factor; however, much progress has been made in going to the edge of the unexplored forest armed with woodcraft that has gotten you or the guy who showed it to you through other forests.

Belief based on dogma is not the same as belief based on training that is even partially realistic.

If what you know might work but ten percent of the time, that's still better than it having no chance of working.

Equating all kinds of training to talismanic thinking is maybe a bit broad, you think ... ?

Yeah, coffee again in the not-too-distant future ...