Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Window 2

There are differences in people and there are differences in problems.

Violence, for most people, it is a vague possibility. Easy to fantasize about, hard to imagine in any realistic detail. For a few it is a professional consideration. For some, it is an element of life, constantly possible.

Those types of responses may be universal. Maybe. Name a problem... say... a Russian invasion (since I seem to be in a 70's/80's mood). Especially after Red Dawn came out, there were a lot of people fantasizing about it. Mostly about glorious battle and grateful rescued maidens, probably. A few practiced a little marksmanship and went back to their routines. Not many made any real changes in their lives and possibly even fewer did a realistic assessment, say by reading intelligence on the threat or even studying Russian language or culture. (Da, ya govoryu nemnogo porooski).

For a few, it was a professional consideration and the military had some training and concrete plans. It wasn't the most likely thing and so didn't get obsessive training... but my National Guard unit had firing positions selected in the Coast Range.

And for some, they actually lived in the old Soviet environment. It wasn't pretty, especially if you had trouble keeping your ideas to yourself or, say, happened to be born Jewish.

The problem wasn't the same for all people.

With violence, I've been working with a lot of that first group recently. Too many martial artists (IMO, of course) are fascinated by the idea of violence and repulsed by the reality. Or would be repulsed, if they ever got close enough to see it.

So another window, maybe.

Violence is a vague thing that might happen. How would your training change if it was a concrete, inevitable thing? If you believed that sometime in the next year, you would be targeted at your weakest to be beaten, or killed? No one can help you.

Would that change the way that you think? The way that you train? Would you still trust sources blindly? When experts contradicted, would you go with the one you liked? Or would the stakes influence you to dig deeper?

This seems like it would work, but I know better. My preparation for Iraq was to read the Quran and a version of the Hadith and a number of books written by Iraqi natives or people in country as anthropologists. Plus the usual military sources. I had my own water filtering system, maps to get to a friendly border on foot, a collection of essential survival and evasion equipment that never left my side and had picked up some basic (unfortunately not local dialect) Arabic.

One of my compatriots preparation was to lay in a stock of jerky and figure out if he could get satellite TV.

When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, she researched the subject obsessively. She could ask her doctors questions, get clarification when experts disagreed. She made informed decisions and she is still kicking along thirty years later. The old friend who said "God will provide" and passively did whatever her doctors told her is dead. So is the tough old man who relied on his own strength.

With violence, you learn. You might still die, but if you expect magic to save you or that you already happen to be the perfect combination to survive, just by luck... it might work for you. Roll your dice.

If it was going to happen, or if you chose to pretend it was going to happen and maybe change your training, would you? Or would you be one of the ones who trusted in forces outside yourself to make things work?


Maija said...

Your post reminds me of the quote:
"Chance favors the prepared mind" - Which, sad to admit, I remember from 'Under Siege 2' and not from the originator - Louis Pasteur :-P

Irene said...

The one I prefer is "Hope is not a strategy."

Anonymous said...

We've been saying this at work for years - if you knew you were going to be in a gunfight tomorrow, what would you change today? Carry method, clothing, training, whatever. And if you would change it in that case tomorrow, why aren't you changing it today?

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, that "compatriot" was someone with a similar background to yourself right? (A long career in a violent profession before they went contracting).

An Ausie friend likes "Prior Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance". You'd think most people would learn this just from ordinary life.

Anonymous said...

"Violence is a vague thing that might happen. How would your training change if it was a concrete, inevitable thing?"

Damn, that's a really excellent question. So good, in fact, I'm not sure yet what my answer is / will be. Looking forward to your next book, by the way . . .

Steve Perry said...

I wonder about the concept of theoretically knowing in advance. If I knew I was going to be in a gunfight tomorrow, I'd stay home. If I couldn't, I'd be carrying weapons that I couldn't carry regularly. Walking down the sidewalk with a shotgun or rifle propped on your shoulder is apt to get you all kinds of attention, legal to carry it or not.

If you are an LEO on the street and you see somebody walk by with a shotgun, I bet that gets your attention.

(We have a neighbor, big 2nd Amendment guy, likes to mow his lawn strapped. Perfectly legal to do so, but whenever he does, the SWAT guys show up -- they have to when a citizen calls in a report of Man With a Gun, even though they know the guy and his little yard theater.)

And how many people know they are going to get into a gunfight in advance?

I sometimes hear a variation of this -- If you knew you might die tomorrow, what would you change? But you can't really live in a constant state of good-bye and final anticipation without burning out. (And you might die on any day, so keeping the loose ends wrapped up and being in the moment is probably as good as you can hope for.)

I think you probably are better served preparing to use the tools you are likely to have, come the need. I'd rather have a sword over a tactical folder in a lot of situations. A shotgun over a pistol. But in my day-to-day travels, I won't have the sword or shotgun.

Master Plan said...

It is pretty vague.

A parallel case might be that of a street level drug dealer.

Somebody *could* make a run at you at any time, for a lot of reasons.
You still gotta go sell that product tho and you can't be carrying openly since you don't need any heat.

Given those factors what might you do differently knowing you'd sold a habitually violent criminal a half pound of baking soda the week prior?

Or maybe what if it was your evil twin? You've been split in two and the evil half has a year to kill you or they vanish forever, how would you prepare for an opponent that thinks like you and knows what you know?

Just thought experiments really. Unless you are actually a violence professional. But they can be helpful, rather than invalidated.

Does help to have test cases to validate against if you're looking for bugs in the system.

Anonymous said...


Sorry, I didn't specify. I'm in federal law enforcement, counterterror stuff. If I knew I was going to be in a gunfight, I'd still have to go, unless I called in sick. :D

And for Rory, wouldn't an excellent example of this be how MMA fighters/boxers/K-1 fighters/etc. prepare vs. how most MA'ers do so? Not to argue the relative merits of style, but of preparation. Those guys *know* they're going to fight, and usually train accordingly.

An excellent Crossfit article discussing relative merits of physical training for police/military vs. sport.


zzrzinn said...

Hard question to answer, a big part of seriously training in martial arts in the modern world (for most of us I think) is patching the holes of what we do.

This involves finding good, critical teachers, and hopefully interacting with some smart people (like Rory etc.) who have 'been there' that can share their insight.

Due to relatively peaceful existences, there are alot of things we just don't "get" on an intuitive leve about violence that would be taken for granted by someone immersed in it. If it was something we dealt with every day like your question asks..we would be thinking about everything very differently.

I think if violence becomes an inevitability instead of a distant possibility, there is a lot more that will change for you than just how and what you are training.

Kai Jones said...

To me the question is how much of the rest of my life do I give up in order to prepare for a possible event? Many people will never be subject to any violence that is not fictional (e.g., movies). How reasonable is it to take on a duty of preparing for violence that may never happen?

I like to look at the failure modes of my choices. If I choose to prepare for a violent encounter, what's the failure mode when it doesn't happen? I've spent a lot of time and money, not to mention space in my brain and a change in my attitude (if I'm doing it right, anyway) for no return. Those are all limited resources: what opportunities did I lose by using them on violence prep? Maybe I never would have taken calculus, or learned to knit, or read as many fiction books as I have.

What's the failure mode of preparing for an event that does happen? I still might not survive it; if I do, I am subject to many of the same consequences as if I had not been prepared, and possibly more (given that if I injure my attacker, zie might sue me for damages--it's happened).

But whether I am attacked isn't entirely up to me; there's only so much I can do to avoid the possibility, and that life also carries a cost. The way you present the situation begs the question of whether we will ever know about tomorrow's violence. Of course if I knew with certainty that I'd be attacked tomorrow, I'd change my life today, just as if I knew I would die tomorrow, I'd live today differently. But if I spend today preparing for a tomorrow that doesn't happen, I've also lost today as itself entirely. And I'm not prepared for the tomorrow that actually comes--the tomorrow in which the skill I needed was to survive the frustrations of a day in the office or the drudgery of daily housework, or the skill to care for an ill parent. Or the pleasures of dancing and cooking and making music--I didn't have time for those things because I was preparing my defense for an attack that never came.

I don't think it's a useful question, because the time frame is too short. Imposing immediate concerns on a lifetime of making choices, of trade-offs and compromises, distorts your judgment. After all, I might step off a curb and be killed by a bus tomorrow, but does that mean I shouldn't bother to shower today?

Rory said...

Kai, this particular question doesn't apply to you.

I'm not talking about changing lives as if violence is inevitable and you had an expiration date. I'm talking about the people who already spend hours and years in training that purports to be training for violence or self-protection. You are spending those hours anyway. How differently would you train, how differently would you approach training if the 'if' of violence changed to a 'when?'

The windows posts are about different ways to bring hobbyists to understand the ramifications of what they play at. They already have an interest, some have spent decades at it. Yet many don't know the most basic aspects of the reality (what a bone sounds like when it breaks, how badly a liver shot hurts and how to fight through when you have no choice...even a profound ignorance of the way the threats even think and behave. It's appalling, to me at least.)

I only have limited time in my life. I have to spend some of that in work and maintenance. I want, desperately, to maximize the time I can spend loving my family. Training time is precious and training stupid or even training unfocused is such a waste (both of time and of risk, because training that sets you up for prison or to die is practicing losing) that it borders (again, for me) on the unforgiveable.

To quote a friend, "I like vampires and werewolves. They aren't real. I know some real people and they scare the f*** out of me." A 6 foot four, muscular, dedicated, experienced professional fighter-- and he trains for things that scare him. He scares most people. He doesn't look at the world or training as a hobby. He wants to survive things that scare him.

Do you think that he looks at training as a hobby? Or wastes time practicing things that don't work? Or tries to look pretty/

If someone has dedicated themselves to martial arts for self-defense, they need to see this world. The windows are new ways to try to get them to see. As already stated, I've tried and failed many ways to reach people.

If people study martial arts to feel less afraid (which, as a feeling, has no correlation-- though sometimes it seems like an inverse correlation, sometimes- with being safer) that's fine. But a teddy bear, a cross over the bed and a nice story from mommy will work just as well.

Rory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kai Jones said...

Got it.

Steve Perry said...

Montie --

Just curious. You being a law dawg and all, the violence comes with the territory, but have you ever known for sure you were going to be in a gunfight the day before?

I'm thinking that the training thought is prepare for the worst and anything less is a gift, but there is a trade-off between what you haul around and what you *might* need to deal with, yes?

Anonymous said...


I never knew it was going to happen, and I've been in a few. Actually, thank all the forgotten gods I didn't know it was going to happen.

And I believe your point is pretty spot on.

And I apologize I didn't link the article earlier. Be warned, it is a PDF so if those bug you don't click. :D