Friday, May 22, 2009


If what you are doing isn't working, do something else.  That goes for life, but in my usual focus, staying whole when someone wants you broken, it is critical.  It requires skill- you have to have a repertoire of things to switch to. It requires judgment- sometimes what is not working is a particular technique, sometimes it is a whole class of techniques.  Some people shrug off body blows and some seem to completely ignore heavy strikes, even to the head and even with impact weapons. (Someone will want to argue this. Feel free. In my personal experience I've taken a crowbar to the back of the head with no effect whatsoever and had to deal with an inmate who had received a full power blow from the infamous lock-in-a-sock to the center of his forehead and proceeded to beat the shit out of the guy who swung it.) It gets weird out there.

That judgment loop feeds back into repertoire- if your training has concentrated in one class of techniques, such as strikes or locks, and that class is off the table, it will be a harder switch than if you have facility with strikes, takedowns, locks, gouges and strangles.  (FWIW, the shime, the vascular strangles, are the ones that I haven't seen anyone show immunity to, though I have seen competitors with extremely strong necks who were very hard to get one on quickly).

Tying back to the nature/nurture thing from the last post, and one possible answer to Narda's question.  Someone may not be able to do something because of either an actual incapacity (not strong enough, for instance) or an experiential deficit (doesn't know how) or a glitch ("oooh. I could never do that, that's horrible!").  Some glitches are conditioning- "Ladies don't fight." Some glitches are choices or self image issues- "I'm not the kind of person who..." And some are training artifacts, things that were taught and are believed that limit ability, "If you hit him here he WILL go down."

Each of these problems has several ways around it, and here is the mimicking thing again- just as it is hard to tell conditioned fear (you can psychologically damage a child or adult to make them afraid to act) from physiological fear (some people dump more stress hormones for less stimulus than others)- when you work around them you get to different places that look the same.  The hormone dump problem yields to stress innoculation and the person gets less chemical fear; the conditioned one wasn't getting the same hormone dump to begin with so once he has to learn to fake fearlessness (being brave and acting brave, in practice are the same, both using will to do what must be done despite fear) he will look very much like the rest of the students.  Both are now acting 'brave' and affecting the world in similar ways but the internal states and the ways to get there are very different. 

One of the 'rules' of classic consim is that students aren't allowed to lose. This doesn't mean they never get their asses kicked.  What it means is that they are not allowed to quit or declared beaten or dead. The scenario goes on until they find a way.  Given enough time, you can almost always find a way.  Sometimes it takes a little coaching.  That is what training is for- to put in the time now so that we have a touchstone when we need it, so that we can spend hours and days working out a solution when the stakes are low so that we have it at our fingertips when the stakes are high.

I want to go off on a tangent here: people are used to fairly quick success. Time and again I have seen people work on the hard survival problems for a little while (like close range knife defense) and when they decide it is hard, they dumb down the problem and start practicing against easy attacks that rarely happen.  Too often this is driven by an instructor who feels his authority is based on having an answer.  Unless it is just a hobby or material for your fantasies, train for the hard stuff.

You can look at most training as a series of workarounds. Power generation is a workaround for weakness, as is application of leverage. For that matter, using a tool.

There is more, though.  Some extraordinary practitioners (like Loren- hey buddy) habitually take injuries as opportunities to practice succeeding.  Loren knew damn well that just because he was injured, sometimes badly, had no bearing on what the world might throw at him. He had to do his best to get the optimum effects with what he had to work with.

Scott has had me work drills with techniques not allowed or only one specific technique allowed to win. I like students to train blindfolded or with an arm or sometimes both out of action.

Those are just some ideas. Workarounds, adaptation, is another skill. It is very important, but rarely directly addressed.  Dave Sumner used to define 'ju' (the essence of jujutsu) as "tactical adaptability."  Flexibly adapting to what the world threw at you in order to prevail.  The art of advantage lies in the ability to solve the problem from many different angles.


Anonymous said...

A comment about strikes not working (the crowbar, the lock-in-sock). The bony areas in the front and back of the head, if you can work around the psychological issues of getting smacked in the head, are some of the best places to get whacked. If it actually is the forehead or above the brain stem, that's all skull, and that's some damn hard bone without a whole lot of vital blood vessels. I know boxers who purposely lead with their foreheads for the purpose of slipping a punch, and have seen my 19 month old son slip on a toy car to fall backwards and whack the back of his head on our hearth, only playing less than a minute later - no blood, no bruise, but panicking parents.

If you had said that you had seen someone take a full on strike to the back or front of the neck, that would be really something.

jks9199 said...

Unless it is just a hobby or material for your fantasies, train for the hard stuff.This says it all. And says what so few are willing to do.

Rory said...

I've only personally seen that in training and I try not to use training stories to make real life points on the blog.
Side effect of the job, strikes to front and back of the neck are considered deadly force and I work really hard to handle things at a lower level. They have always worked for me in real life. So far.

In training over the years I have kicked two people in the throat, one a standard bladed side kick, one a shin kick, without any effect. Only two unaffected, only in training.

That's me, though. Expand the data pool and one of my most trusted sources (Loren) writes about driving a full power strike to the brainstem with the only affect being to draw the threat's attention.

There are high percentage strikes and those are two of the highest, but things get weird out there.

JKS- yeah. Sometimes it seems that people who approach it as a hobby get more invested than people that need it to survive. Maybe one it defines their 'self' and the other is using at a tool to protect existance. Something to think about.

Unknown said...

I agree. With the exception of physically, structurally breaking someone, I have never had the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint ( the current iteration of the venerable and misleadingly named choke hold) fail me. I've seen pretty much everything else go south with varying degrees of success or failure. Unfortunately, most agencies now lump the LVNR with deadly force options. Thank God for TASERS.

Steve Perry said...

In the early seventies, there was a guy who'd show up at karate tournaments where I was living, who would allow people to come up and offer him punches or chops to the throat. I saw him shrug off a shot I would have sworn would have been fatal, and he did it three times in the same demo.

One of the silly martial arts shows on cable shows a guy taking a taser to the chest and having the wherewithal to sweep an arm down and knock the dart out.

Me, I'd bet good money and offer odds that a .308 to the head would be a fight-ender statistically close to 100% of the time, but if you go by numbers, all life that has survived on Earth, compared to the species that have been wiped out over the last couple hundred million years, is but a statistical error, percentage-wise ...

We are both more durable and fragile than most people think.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I remember him Steve. Ron Sacharnowski. The was also an ex-bodybuilder (Mike Dayton?) who used to hang himself (insert obvious well-hung joke here). Cons are now teaching each other in prison to drop and roll when tasered to break the leads. I know when I took the ride for 5 seconds that the only thing I could do was involuntarily scream expletives. The expletives I used afterward were entirely voluntary.

Steve Perry said...

Rory's point is good, though -- if you are sure your Sunday punch will drop a rhino in his tracks and you throw it and it doesn't, then what?
If you are in the one-shot-one-kill mindset and the guy grins at you after you deliver it, that is apt to do bad things to your self-confidence.

We used to practice doing this in one of the schools where I trained. You might be unable to breathe and about to keel over from the pain, but the notion was to smile and nod and say, "Good one." It did mess with people's minds: I just hit him with all I had and he's smiling at me! Oh, shit ...

Probably be good if you had some options.