Monday, June 30, 2008


Most of my time spent on military bases was in the eighties and early nineties. There have been a lot of changes. The senior officers and senior NCOs look much younger. I saw a major and a WO3 yesterday both of whom looked barely thirty. At the same time, the soldiers look older. The privates and specialists and junior NCOs are dedicated and serious. They seem far more mature than I remember myself at that stage of life.

Connectivity is a huge change. When I went through basic and AIT or was away, the only contact was by letter or the rare privelege of a long distance phone call. In almost any breaks in briefing today I will see soldiers on cell phones or typing away texting. I will do it myself, later tonight. It's much easier to stay connected, to remember why we are here (and why we want to return) than it was.

The internet, too. Lots of laptops. This blog would not have been possible twenty years ago (it was over twenty years since I volunteered to be a part of this thing that I am only visiting now. Time flies.) E-mail. Pictures. Research. When things settle, videophone capability (the Sci-Fi of the fifties is here- where's my flying car?)

The baseline hasn't changed: The mission. Always the mission. I love that, I love being in a place where there is a job that needs doing. It doesn't have to be a big scary job (though I seem to like those best) but one where getting the job done is more important that political careers or managing image. Processing paperwork or medevacing a casualty, everyone is very serious. Even serious about down time.

It's good. Boring sometimes (but I am almost always bored.) Soon there will be less time for boredom.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Catch Up

So much going on, so much to write.

Beautiful (muggy, sweaty, humid) Washington DC. Not enough time see the one tourist attraction that interests me, the Smithsonian. Just busy. Paperwork. Equipment. Demonstrate ability with a couple of weapons and familiarize with another. Size up the others. Size up the organization.

I'm amazed and a little disturbed about the obsession with money that a few display. It's a factor, no doubt, but I feel my own obsession with the challenge; I try to guess which of my preconceptions will fall in the next years. How different will I be? What will I learn? What do I assume is impossible that will seem easy by the end of the year?

The reviews on the book are good. It's getting discussed on the Uechi message board and Steve Perry was kind. Had the first e-mail accusing me of changing a life. Nice. Powerful. A little scary.

If you have e-mailed me I will get back to you, for some reason I have the internet, can get e-mail, but not send it.

Got to play with Dana Sheets and her students last night. An Uechi-ka with a very interesting mind it was wonderful to finally meet her in person and to get a few hints of things that I can work on for the next year or so- a way to control my breathing; a way to think about motion; an observation about how I move when I fight or throw that I can't seem to do when striking air. Her dojo has a good feel, serious but caring. Her family is wonderful.

Tired. About twelve hours sleep since Tuesday. More things to do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Intimidating jail guards usually doesn't work that well.  The guy was big (6'3" and 275 according to his sheet) not fat- still had most of his prison muscles.  He tried to bully his officer and found himself cuffed before he quite figured out that his shouting and posturing didn't work.  The officer called me to take him to the hole.

The inmate was still angry, trying to intimidate, standing so close that I almost tripped over him.  I turned and started to say, "I know you're afraid but you don't have to stand so close. I'll protect you." He saw something in my expression and stepped back and quieted down before I could say anything.  Too bad, I was curious what his reaction would be.

On the long walk his confidence would come back and he would start yelling and complaining.  It attracted the attention of a couple of escort officers and they followed us to the Disciplinary Unit.  In the cell I took his first handcuff off and he yanked away and started to spin, possibly to strike but more likely in an attempt to provoke a Use of Force.  I stepped in and barely pushed, just enough that his balance disappeared.  A little harder and his head slams into the wall, a little twist and he goes down face first towards the door. But right at that point, he can't move or turn without falling.  I said, "That was really, really stupid. Do not EVER move fast when an officer takes your cuffs off.  If you try it again, you're going to kiss concrete. Do you understand?"

He apologizes. He tells me the cuffs were just too tight.  He's trying to read my expression again and it disturbs him that he can't tell what I'm thinking.

About then I realized what I was feeling.  Sort of a misty-eyed nostalgia.  The words in my head? "This might be the last time that I take down a really big guy. (Sniff sniff) I might never get to do this again. I'm really going to miss this."

Seventeen years on the job has made for a lot of firsts.  This week has been a lot of things that might be lasts.  Most of the interesting ones were averted.  The guy who looked to be  the last Tasering ran like a rabbit for his cell when he saw the response you get when you refuse to cell in.  That's a Catch-22, if you think about it: run and the other inmates call you a wimp, stay and get thumped and they call you stupid.

Teaching an old con how to get what he wants in a non-criminal way.  It's a completely new mindset, but he is trying.

Possible last conversations with violent schizophrenic prisoners.  Last mental health team meeting.  Last time I will hear, "Let sarge talk to him," as the probable answer to a sticky problem.  Last chess game with a murderer. Last time I'll be able to point out to a rookie that the change in flow of movement in his dorm is because of a gang territory issue- and everything in his dorm is his territory.  Last time talking old war stories with people who were there.

The big changes will bring new stories.  I know that.  But the misty-eyed nostalgia is still there, still very strong.  

Two more shifts.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Analogies, Breaking Patterns and Stopping

Steve Perry wrote a comment that needs to be dissected. It's a mix, in that part of it points up the weakness of analogy, part of it uses that weakness but at the core it's a really good question.

First the subject that I write about is violence. People trying to injure or kill people. Not hurt feelings or family disputes or playground scuffles. At the core, most of this blog has been about how evil people use force and how to prepare for a very bad day.

There isn't a lot of experience in this area. Most people reading this have never faced a PCP freak or been ambushed by someone with a knife or been shot at or had a group of people try to stomp them to death... With those few that I know with common experiences, we can talk about it differently. We can talk directly. With those who haven't experienced the clarity or the blur or the rush and who aren't haunted by the sounds and the smells and the aftermath I'm stuck talking around it. We have to use analogies.

Martial arts training is an analogy for violence.
Tournament training (at any level of contact or allowable technique) is an analogy for this type of violence.
Research, also, is an analogy, only a picture. C=C is a symbol, not the molecule itself.
Even real experience in one type of violence is only an analogy for another- what I do leading an entry team is not what a woman surviving a rape attempt does.

When I wrote a long time ago that reason is weak (thanks for bringing this out, Steve. I think I have the words now.) is that reasoning without experience will be based on one or more analogies and can never be stronger than the analogies themselves. Without direct experience, you can't even estimate the strength of your analogy. You take that on faith and wind up with reason based on faith as a first premise.

On to Steve's comment (my comments in italics):

"I had a thought about the idea of breaking patterns. I think i understand your basic idea is not to get so locked into a Way that you can't adjust it if needs be. (Exactly) But it brings up a question about options:

Consider a baseball pitcher. He's on the mound, set to throw. Ordinarily, there's the look if there are runners on base, the wind-up, and the pitch. If, anywhere during the sequence, the motion is frozen and the query raised -- how would you throw a strike from here? then the answer is almost certainly going to be "Just like I intended."

(Here we get into analogy weakness.  The pitcher is playing baseball. He is fair certain he is going to throw the ball.  Probably to the catcher but maybe to third base.  What if he looks to runners on base and sees all the fans storming on to the field screaming for his blood?  His solution for that will have to come from outside the game.  If he looks for a baseball answer to a soccer-riot problem, he won't find one.)

(I also want to break this down a little more.)  If, anywhere during this sequence, the motion is frozen and the query raised -- how would you throw a strike from here? (Break. This is where the sports to fighting analogy really departs from the martial arts to fighting analogy.  The original freeze and think concept is for martial arts.  People can spar and roll at what they feel are very intense levels and no one gets injured.  If you stop them and point out that the goal is to injure, they fight completely differently.  That's a big freaking clue that the analogy they are training by is 'off'.  A closer sports analogy would be to take a recreational slow pitch softball player and have him fantasize that he has just suddenly appeared on the mound pitching in the World Series and Sammy Sosa is coming up to bat.  His mindset, his technique... everything will change.  I want to say more real, but all of these examples are real. Recreational slow pitch is just as real as major league play, but they don't cross over that well.) Then the answer is going to be "Just like I intended."  (Maybe, if you are already committed to the motion.  The trouble is, if you are intending to throw slow pitch and it turns out this was a major league game, you will fail.  But you will fail exactly the way you were trained to fail.  You might find some comfort in that, but I don't see it.  However "Just like I intended." does happen and is one of the little details that keeps giving people hope that they can get insight -and you can, don't get me wrong- from unrelated comparisons.  Many people fail to abort an act when it is no longer appropriate. Unprepared and untrained in switching gears some officers fire after the hand comes out of the pocket before they consciously register that the hand was empty or that the shiny object was a cigarette pack and not a gun.

Granted, at punching range, the striker has more options, but assuming that once action commences, he is moving as quickly and efficiently as he can to take his opponent out, why would freezing and asking the question be useful? (Remember moving right versus moving well?  It gets back to this: if he really is moving as quickly and efficiently as he can to take the opponent out, why isn't the opponent going out? If you are moving efficiently but not getting the job done you may be moving right, but you aren't moving well. Again, freezing and asking the question is not something I advocate in fighting but in training because we slip into fun mode without realizing it and those habits ingrain.)

What else can I do if this fails? might be a good thing to consider (training for failure and recovery is another issue and a very important one), but if I'm already on the way to where I want to go as best I can see -- and why would I be doing it any other way? (Because you aren't. Take any drill you do with your instructor.  Stop him and ask, "If you had to finish me right now, how would you do it?" And see what happens.  I've seen your instructor.  He will have a one-move pretty thorough answer.  Maybe three moves if he is in a very bad situation. And this cries the question: if you can reliably bring a human being to destruction in three moves, why does any drill last longer?) why do I want to freeze and think about it?  (Answered above, but to re-iterate: people training and sparring get caught up in a particular mindset that prolongs the game.  It's fun.  Freeze when sparring or drilling and take an objective look and you will find that you are almost never fighting to the goal.  You may be moving right, but you are moving towards a goal (skill acquisition or fun) that is very different from the goal of surviving violence.  Another weak sports analogy: you can have perfect stance, grip, trigger press and breath control but you also need to check occasionally and see if you are hitting anything.) 

How I would take this guy out from this position is how I'm about to do it. If shit happens, then I'll do it a different way. " 

Admirable, but knowing you are working from a training analogy, how many of your training partners have you actually taken out?  If the answer is less than fifty percent there is something in your training done for safety.  Those safety habits are ingrained at least as thoroughly as any combative lessons instilled.  Thousands of reps of not hurting someone creates a skill at not hurting someone, no matter how martially those habits are instilled.  You need a balance to that effect.  Stopping and looking for the goal -in training- is one way of doing this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


It looks like I will get an exit interview after all.

It won't be with any member of the command structure, not a sworn officer. I will be interviewed by one of the Human Resources people, an office worker. No idea if what I have to say will be heard by the people who need to hear it. I think that if anyone had cared to hear it, I wouldn't be leaving.

It took a lot to make this decision. The new opportunity is amazing, a huge step forward in challenge and learning opportunities. There are several aspects that will require me to bring my game up to new levels. That makes it a logical progression to someone who has been asking, "What's the next step?" and "Where do I go from here?" for years.

The new opportunity isn't the whole story, though. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time it's pretty clear that I love this job. I love the challenge of it, the daily dealing with and stabilizing chaos, the constant need to switch communication modes when dealing with predators and victims and professionals and civilians. I egotistically thrive on being the one who gets called for the ugly, the dangerous, the tricky and the delicate issues. I love doing the impossible and being told later it looked effortless. I love sitting in class with 'experts' teaching that such-and-such is "impossible" when I have done that very thing. Twice. In the last week.

It takes something huge to make me walk away from the best fit of any job, to abandon a career two thirds of the way to a comfortable retirement. To leave a place and a challenge and people that I love.

In the end though, they made it very easy.

When it is all done, I'll fill you in on the next step. A few of you have guessed already.

On a completely unrelated note:
Amazon has a "Only two copies left" notice on Meditations. I think that is a very good sign.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Hundreds of people in the wall. The names on the small bronze plaques belong to ashes, the bigger names on bigger bronze plaques belong to bodies, quietly rotting. Outside, hundreds more in the dirt, marked by stone or bronze with names and dates. There are dates ninety years apart and dates only weeks apart. Ninety years is nothing compared to the universe, a huge chunk of time compared to a human's attention span. How often did the person that used to be actually live even five of their ninety years?

This is where it all ends, my friends. Rotten meat in the ground probably poisoning worms with preservative chemicals or gray gritty powder released to the wind. All of us, every time, the same end. No matter the vitamins you take or the fitness regimen you pursue or which god you try to suck up to or buy off. Worm food or ashes.

Do you feel the freedom in this knowledge? Revel in it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Central to West

I love the high desert. The sun beats down from a clear sky, white clouds scattered to the east, half a moon glows pale from the blue, the dark half of the moon disappearing in a color that looks too perfect to be natural and is ultimately natural. Smells of sagebrush and juniper; the dank smell of rodent nests in a cave.

The wind blows, bringing a chill that battles the sun. The thermometer says sixty degrees but in the sun and out of the wind it is sweaty warm; in the shade and the wind it is cold, crisp. 'Crisp' is such a good word for a dry cold.

The canals and rivers shine in the sun like solid things. The rimrocks stand like fortresses above the valleys. Snowy mountains reflect the light like fake ivory, the shadows on the glaciers an eerie blue, darker than the sky.

Tomorrow we drive, a long trip I used to take as a child. My mother wishes to see her mother's grave. We will juggle her oxygen tanks into the car and drive and talk. Over the mountains I see on the horizon, through the alpine forests and the rain forests and to the edge of the ocean where we will place flowers on a grave. I know what my mom will be thinking as she breathes through tubes and looks at a stone with a name and a pair of dates. It has the feeling of a quest, a journey to say hello and goodbye while there is still time.

In one day, the smell of sage and salt sea; the open vista of the desert and the dense green of the coast range; sunburn and probably rain; poking at the line of life and death.

Monday, June 09, 2008


It's time to share.
Last Wednesday, I lit up a cigar.  I don't like cigars.  They taste nasty, they smell terrible but sometimes it just seems like the thing to do.  About ten years ago I wrote a magazine article on a whim and it sold.  The first place that would get the magazine in town was a locally famous cigar store.  I picked up the magazine and a cigar and sat on the bank of the Willamette reading my first article and smoking my first cigar.
Last week, the fine people at YMAA express mailed me a copy of the book right off the presses.  I had to wait until after work and it was too dark to sit on the deck and smoke a cigar and read, but the tradition has become pretty strong.  I puffed a little in the cloudy midnight and went inside and read.
It looks good.  I found one spelling error and one of the copy-editors really likes commas, but it reads pretty well.  There are places where I struggled with the formatting but that is what happens when you try to deal with a complicated subject.  Each thing affects many other things and the effects of stress have to be discussed in training and in application and in thinking and in the aftermath.
The pictures, a few provided by Critical Care Bio-Recovery (Thanks, Jennifer!) and martial friends and several taken by my wife are effective, even though the book was written without pictures in mind.
The foreword by Steve Barnes is powerful.  The advance praise is very good.
My local Barnes and Noble  and Borders and Powells have all assured me they are on order and will be on shelves very soon.
So I'm a little jazzed right now.  Life is very cool.
Adventure awaits.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Math and Martial Arts

In a comment on Persistence of Patterns, Ukemi pointed out some stuff that's worth worth going into.

Using metaphors is always problematic.  I described a martial artist's skill set as a collection of answers.  I was thinking technique here, but also the way in which it is sometimes taught: If the bad guy does this, it sets him up so and you do that...  In the metaphor, this skill or technique is the answer to that problem.

Ukemi brought up math as a counter analogy- a mathematician learns the functions and applies them in an order based on principles and derives an answer, the mathematician doesn't memorize the answer to all possible algebra equations.

That's a damn good point, and it's a good place to get to... but...  Even an advanced mathematician works basic multiplication from memory.  What is 5x7?  6x8? 2x9?  This is where beginners are.  Even good mathematicians (I assume, not being one) when he applies the functions, has memorized them.  Memorized the meta answers, in a way.

None of that really matters and I'm not arguing Ukemi's point.  It powerfully showed a weakness in my metaphor.  Cool. And thank you.

So, given an already weak and damaged metaphor (really just a comparison, now) I'm going to run with it:

There are two huge but related differences between training for math and training for conflict.  The first is that almost every kid in America is forced to take math to a fairly high level.  For much of history algebra and especially trigonometry were secret, almost magical knowledge.  My kids are required to learn things that were mysteries to the architects who built the pyramids.  By the time a kid graduates from high school he has about 2400 hours of training in mathematics.  And it's not the same 100 hours merely repeated over and over again, it progresses, each grade building on what came before.  Martial arts are often progressive, too, but rarely as logically detailed in that progression.  
The related difference: martial artists are allowed to stop when they are comfortable.  Kids learning math aren't.  You want to do just kata?  Fine.  There are schools for that. Competition?  Easy.  Feel-good two hour self-defense seminars? Everywhere.  Get a nifty black belt?  Sign on the dotted line.  Feel a connection to Bruce Lee?  Within two hundred miles is someone who trained with him directly, there are probably a dozen who trained with his direct students in any good-sized city.  You want to take it all the way- interpersonal violence to armed conflict? That gets way harder.  I had to go to jail to get a taste.

There are unrelated differences, too.  You can safely test the outer edge of your math skills.  You can actually use trigonometry to judge distance in the real world.

There is another, very important real world similarity between violence and math: If you are confronted by a problem in real life that can be solved, either with violence or math, you don't get to choose the problem.  If you have to work out a budget you don't get to say, "How about if I just count ceiling tiles?  It's still math."  Same with being confronted with violence- you avoid all the violence you can and the only thing you can predict about the violence you get is that you weren't able to avoid it.

But in martial arts training (and this is what the post on Persistence of Patterns was really all about) in training and only in training do you get to change the questions to fit with the answers you are comfortable with.  It is, for most players, completely subconscious.  It wasn't the guys defending in the knife drill that were saying, "Back up and give me room so that I have a chance."  It was the partners playing bad guy and they did not realize they were doing it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

From Here to There

Steve wrote an excellent comment on the last post, the killer question: How do we get there from here?  How do you systematically teach chaos?  Skills, principles, drills- everything you teach has to be safe enough to practice.  It takes minutes at a time resulting in hours of training and repetition to get the most basic skills- sensitivity, structure, power generation and stealing, targeting, exploiting motion, tactical intuition, ... on and on.  Then you have to be able to use those skills in a dynamic net, all of the skills playing off of each other and do it when you don't have any preparation time or any safety net.

I'm working on it.

The cheap answer is "mindfulness."  You and your students need to know what you are actually doing and, more importantly, what you are not doing.  Sparring is an okay way to work on timing, an excellent first step to teaching tactical awareness and sometimes intuition.  It is not practicing self defense.  That's not enough, either: for non-grappling systems it actually hurts your distancing (you either have to pull or you are wearing gloves that can displace the point of contact an inch or so, and an inch off in a fight can suck) can compromise your power generation (I'm a relatively small guy who doesn't train full contact- the last time I went somewhere and had to box I broke two ribs through armor while wearing sixteen ounce gloves- the guys who trained full contact weren't hitting that hard, because if they did, they run out of students.  They were hitting light AND didn't know it AND thought they were hitting "right".)

So that's the first thing, know what you are doing and, more importantly, know what you aren't doing.  Does any of this make any drill bad?  Hardly.  As long as you milk it for what is there, there aren't many bad drills.  They just get dangerous when a student (or, gad, an instructor) believes that it is something it isn't.

Second, always know the flaw in the drill.  Quoting myself: "In the end, a martial artist is training to kill, cripple or maim another human being. In any drill where the students are not regularly taken to the hospital, there is a safety flaw built in."

Judo starts from the very beginning with a very specific follow-through to the hip and shoulder throws.  Students are taught that this follow-through increases control and sets up the uke for a quick arm-bar or osaekomi.   The simple fact is that the four traditional follow-throughs either shattered the shoulder, snapped the neck, broke the tailbone or knocked the wind out.  The judo follow through is taught as control, but was introduced for safety.

The pronated fist in karate is almost unheard of in the Okinawan systems. It was (according to one of the grand old men of shito-ryu) a Japanese innovation to make the strike safer- the Japanese were not willing to allow the number of training deaths that the Okinawans did. That one should be obvious to anyone who has paid attention to their own body while hitting a bag: pronating the fist shortens the arm, it makes the wrist much weaker, it forces an unnatural bend to get the two big knuckles in line with the radius and ulna (resulting in many strained wrists) it even crosses the radius and ulna.  Everyone who has done this has felt it... but it was "the right way" and they made up a bucketful of myths about why it was the right way.

So, suggestion number two: always look for why your partner is not going to the emergency room.  It's okay -critical- to have safety flaws.  We need to recycle partners.  But be mindful that it is a flaw and be sure to balance it with another drill that works to offset that flaw- if you've been playing pitty-pat sparring with a partner, take some time to unload on a heavy bag (and watch your feet and you will see that not only did you shortchange your power generation when sparring, but you stand much closer to a bag you want to unload on than a person you are playing with- which distance do you suppose is right?)
Corollary to suggestion number two:  Don't practice the flaws!  If you find that you are expected to put extra time or effort into perfecting the part of a technique that is designed to not hurt someone, walk away.  Seriously.  I would leave an instructor in a heartbeat who was wasting time like that.

Third, don't practice against imaginary attacks.  We know a lot about how people really attack.  We know about monkey dancing and how to avoid that.  We know about predatory assault and how those are set up and executed.  We know how domestics go bad and what an enraged person is likely to do with a kitchen knife.  Most stuff works against the monkey dance, including walking away.  Great- we got the skills for the one we can avoid.  There is no one way an attack will happen, but I will go out on a limb and say that there are a few ways that they almost never happen: the slow-motion lunge from two feet out of range and the slow motion downward stab, both holding the arm in one place for long enough to do something to it. About ninety percent of all martial arts weapons defenses that I've seen are concentrated against attacks that I've never seen outside training (Not just martial arts, the one they taught at the academy was one of the worst).

Bad guys aren't stupid and they don't use weapons for an edge.  They use the weapon to finish things.  They attack with surprise, from very close with all the power and speed they can muster, preferably inhibiting your movement at the same time.  If you honestly give the guy with the weapon permission to act like a real bad guy, you will lose.  A lot.  You probably won't find anything that works, but you will find a few things that work better and, strangely enough, you will find those things centered around fast, close, hard and surprise.

Discouraged? Don't be.  You might not find answers training this way but you will become very familiar with the question, and that is a huge advantage.  The danger or temptation here is to just slip back into the old ways.  Go ahead and drink the grape kool-aide and have your uke be stupid and slow and obvious, because that works, baby.

When you let your bad guys be bad guys, it's a whole new world, and your skills build at an amazing rate.

Last (for now)- break patterns and freeze.  This one applies especially to grapplers, but it also works for anyone and I even do it in restaurants: freeze the drill, stop, and think- If I had to take this guy out completely, right now, how would I do it?  In almost any situation if you have any skill at all there is a pretty reliable finishing option- C-1, eardrum, philtrum,  throat, carotid triangle, jaw hinge, peritoneal nerve, knee, ankle...

It's a good mindset game, but the real question, once you realize that one of these is almost always right there, is why you weren't already doing it. Why is this a break from your pattern?  What pattern were you in?  Playing a game?  Locked in a rut?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Persistence of Patterns

One of the most fundamental differences between martial arts and violence is the goal. Most martial arts have a single definition of a win- the KO, the submission, ippon, five legal touches...-and in any real conflict the goal (as well as the parameters) may be different. Fighting to destroy is different than fighting to subdue, both are different than fighting to escape or fighting to cover someone else's escape. Sometime you need to create space to access a force option or create enough time to get help or make a plan.

One of the fundamental differences between martial artists and violence professionals is the ability to choose the appropriate goal and to fight to that goal. It is single-minded (though the awareness should be wide open). Single minded can be taken wrong: Fighting to win is one thing. Fighting not to lose is something completely different. A violence professional will do one or the other. A martial artists tends to try to find a balance, and they tend to be very confused by someone who ignores the balancing niceties and just does what it takes. YMMV.

Even worse, the stated goal in a martial arts class is rarely the real goal. In the class, you may be told or believe that you are practicing 'fighting' or 'self-defense', but the students are actually always striving to make the teacher happy.  So they try to move the way the teacher moves and they try to 'flow'.. and they don't run or draw hidden weapons or break the pattern.  Breaking an expected pattern is almost always a good survival strategy.

The seminar went well and I did what I was supposed to do. Kj would present a drill, the students would practice it, and then I would explain how it could get you killed but also what was inside it that made the drill valuable.  'The drill is not the thing' was the mantra for the day.

One of the drills was a continuous attack with two weapons and the defender, with a short stick, was to flow and counter attack.  I've seen this drill a lot in arnis and related arts. I paired with one person and we played for a few seconds before I stopped it. "Change your mindset, " I said, "You're thinking about flow and foot work and stuff.  Let's do the same thing but this time, HURT ME."

For the rest of the drill she was still fluid, but the improvement was palpable.  How she moved, her distancing, her targeting, her balance of offense and defense were profoundly different. Profoundly improved, from the survival point of view.

I did/said something similar with an instructor rank.  He didn't get it, so we switched- he went for the continuous attack.  I'm not sure what I did could be called a flow.  In slow motion I slipped him, took his back and extended his spine.  Owned his balance, both his weapons were neutralized and the pommel of my stick was over his exposed and stretched trachea.  His eyes got very big.  He saw it, he could move as well as I did (honestly, better- he probably has more original issue joints).  Within a half hour, though, he was back in the exact same pattern of movement he had started in.  The years of training had ground a deep rut for his mind.

This really came to my attention hard towards the end of the seminar.  KJ had me go over how real knife assaults happen- close, fast, surprise if the threat can get it, usually in a confined space, and with part of you grabbed and controlled.  There are a few things that work from there and we played them, had them practice.  The notebook with the pictures of knife wounds was on the table.  They knew or should have known that this was the no bullshit deal- maybe just a few percentage points of chance, but stuff that had worked against real attacks, against attacks the way they happen.  Everyone started backed up against the wall with their partner/enemy at bad breath range.

Within ten minutes, all of the bad guys had taken a step back so that they could work at dojo range and were giving long, slow, obvious leads.  The technique works better that way, I guess.
The weird part, and the danger of patterns, is that they had all done it and no one realized it.