Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Pieces of what follows will be from memory, so please forgive if the quotes are not exact.

RJ Nash, in "Condition Black" notes that the most common attack (male on female) is for the man to merely display a weapon, make a threat, and put his hand on the victim's upper arm and lead her away. It sounds so docile, so unlikely. Who would go along with a mere threat? Why wouldn't she simply...

Teja Van Wicklen, of Devi Protective Offense consistently finds the words to make things real: "It's not like screaming and bullying. Guys don't get that. He can hurt her and she knows it, but he says, 'I know you're afraid. Don't worry. Just don't fight me and I won't hurt you. I promise.' And she chooses to believe him even though she knows it's a lie-- an unsolicited promise is always a lie-- but she doesn't see another way."

Teja makes it personal, makes it real. I teach it dry, academic: Predators want you in your social brain. As long as you are being social, thinking you can control or at least influence the outcome by social skills (talking, bargaining, appeasement, flattery...) the predator knows you are both safe and completely predictable. If you are in your thinking, human brain, you might be smarter than the threat. If you are in your reptilian survival brain, there is no limit to the harm you might do. If your attacker can keep you in your social/monkey brain he knows that he is safe.

When I teach that the first hit after you break out of a freeze is done at half power, it is an observation. No one hits hard in their first strike of their first fight, not when they are surprised. For some unknown reason, it is almost always a tentative, half-power, powder puff. Almost more a signal of intent than a strike. I tell students that and caution them against it.

Teja talks of the consequences: "She tries to fight, but that first hit is half power, like you say, more struggling than fighting and he hits her back, hard. She's never felt pain like that and she is afraid to try again... and he says, again, 'Just don't fight me and I won't hurt you.' She has to believe it because it seems like the only chance she has is to believe he is telling the truth."

There are aspects of problems that I can never fully understand. We are all wired differently, all have different experiences. Teja is fast becoming my Subject Matter Expert for women's self-defense issues. Partially because she sees it so clearly but even more because she can explain it in a way that gets through.


Dan said...

I've been thinking of getting the Devi DVD for my wife - your high opinion of her just pushed me closer.

Mark Jones said...

I've heard you speak of breaking a freeze by acting--but this is the first I've heard that that first attack will always be tentative.

Whoa. That's news to me, and it suggests to me that any plan/training for reacting to an attack and trying to break a freeze should include more than one action. Is that workable, or is one action--that trained reflex you've talked about--all you can really hope to prepare?

Rory said...

Two separate issues. the Oc response (conditioned reflex) ideally will kick in before the freeze. the big value is that because it is unexpected, it tends to disrupt the bad guy's plan and force him into a freeze, too, leveling the playing field.
What seems to work to break the freeze is 2 actions. Not sure why, but it seems pretty consistent. What I can't know is if just explaining it is enough for people to do it or remember to do it under stress.

All that stuff is in the next book.

Mark Jones said...

Well, if it takes two actions to break the freeze, maybe this is why. That first tentative response is a test. "Did it make things worse?"

If it does (he hits you back, much harder), you fold. If not, you hit him again because now you have a _new_ strategy of the it-hasn't-killed-me-yet variety to fixate on.

Jay Gischer said...

It seems to me that the ideas and strategies that you here ascribe to predators can be put to use for more socially positive ends.

That is, isn't this how you would try to control a prisoner as a corrections officer? Or how you would try to talk down a drunk? - Keep them in their social brain?

Mac said...

A drill based on Rory' s reception line and rear attack drills: line, eyes closed, instructors in back with focus mitts. Student gets tapped on the back of the head, pivots and ROLLING THUNDER, maybe 5-8 hits. Instructor moves with advance. Pt 2: smack w/instructor kiai to create startle; at ransom times; same. This is JKA variant where the sense carried a shinai around. Creates a more 'global' awareness during point-of-action focus and closing the"perception-action gap".

Anonymous said...

"an unsolicited promise is always a lie"

worth it just for that line.checked out her website.she's taught the military and law enforcement..............I really hate that lame old tired sell tactic ....who hasn't LOL

Irene said...

One thought: Women know that men are stronger than they are and that (all else being equal) in a physical fight, the man will inflict more damage on the woman than she will on him.

Most women never have the opportunity to learn exactly how much stronger a man is -or more to the point, isn't- than a woman. And they never have the opportunity to learn if it is possible for her to inflict sufficient damage to escape. (It does not have to be more damage than he is capable of inflicting - it just has to be enough to make it no longer worth his while.)

The thought process goes something like this: He is holding me.He is stronger than I am. Therefore, I am not strong enough to get away from him. If I try and fail, he will hurt me. He can hurt me more than I can hurt him, therefore I cannot hurt him enough to make him let me go. Because he is stronger than I am and he can hurt me much worse than I can hurt him.

Buried in there somewhere is the assumption that his motivation to keep her is as strong as her motivation to get away. If that were the case, her logic would hold true, I think. I do not think, however, that it is true.

Maija said...

Regarding predator communication -
It seems that their use of words is important - the implication that there are only 2 ways for this to go.
I remember reading that this ploy of giving only 2 options is a standard technique of coersion.
"Do this, or I'll hurt you".
Or "You want this (easy/no punishment)? Or that (punishment)"? It can work just as well with "If you do this I won't hurt you" - implying the opposite as option #2.
For some reason, we are easily led by words, and narrowing the imagination as to what options exist (pain/ no pain) seems like a common method of control.
I think we also key on the words used. Working construction, you learn to say to people "Make sure you step over that extension cord" not "don't trip over that cord". Turns out more people trip when you say 'trip'.

Dan Gambiera said...

Rory, you say "the most common attack" of men on women involves a weapon. Are you sure you're remembering that correctly?

I just spent a while rummaging through the NIJ's sponsored research paper website and the material we used for a review article some years back. For the overwhelming majority of sexual assault, most simple assaults and a plurality of robberies there is no weapon according to multiple sources and methodologies (police reports, reported summary statistics, victim interviews, and others).

That said, the point you're getting at is well taken.

The hardest thing in teaching basic self defense to women was getting some of them past the "That isn't nice" or "But I might hurt him" stage. It's the default socialization for girls. It can be quite a job getting them to the point where it's OK to tear a guy's head off and beat him to a pulp with it, no matter how terrible he's being.

Yes, Irene, men are generally bigger and stronger than men. There's more going on than that. We aren't where we were sixty years ago, thank the gods. Women are still taught to be deferential to men, to apologize more (you referenced that a while back), to take up less space, to be quieter and so many other things.

I'm a guy. I like to use cars as an analogy. Go too fast, you get in an accident. Go too slow, you get in an accident. Guys are more likely to be above the speed limit here or at least think they are before the reality checks start bouncing. Gals are more likely to need instruction that gets them up to highway speeds.

Not always, but often enough that there's a definite pattern.

Your observation about nobody hitting full out the first time is a very valuable one. I guess that's why you keep hitting :)

Rory said...

RJ Nash's research was from the UK. It was the only breakdown of assaults by type that I've seen. His description, as well as I can recall it, is 'the threat displayed a weapon, made a threat and then escorted the woman away with a hand on her upper arm.' I believe the condition black article is available on line.

Dan Gambiera said...

Rory -

That actually makes a lot of sense, especially if it was from a few years ago. We see the joys of the intersection of politics and policing.

When I used to follow the literature on this sort of thing the UK seemed a little weird. There was a lower sexual assault rate than in other Western countries during periods lasting quite a few years. And more of it was with violence.

A lot of it was what the police classified as sexual assault. Home Office and local police doctrine for quite a while was to provide a hostile, confrontational interrogation.

For the victim.

Unless there was a weapon or really exuberant violence a woman who went to the police was in for an experience not unlike the original assault. And - this is just anecdotal from advocates and cops, but still worth noting - it discouraged women from reporting at all. Classification bias, sample bias, you name it bias.

Let's throw it into an even harsher light. By the same standard there's pretty much no rape in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan or Somalia. There are practically no reports and even fewer convictions. Maybe Wahabism makes men respect women. Or maybe it has something to do with the required three male witnesses to the act for a conviction. And making a rape complaint is a confession to the capital crime of sexual immorality. Women have been stoned as adulteresses in several of these countries for going to the police.

Given that I'm a little skeptical. Given that rape involving a weapon is much rarer in similar countries like Canada, NZ and Australia I'm a lot skeptical. And given that it's much lower in the US where firearms are much more common I'm very skeptical.

That doesn't do anything to invalidate your point about what needs to be done. Changing people's minds so they react in productive ways to criminal violence is the one really important thing.