Saturday, December 25, 2010

Missing and Action

Read something today that hit me as wrong on a very visceral level. I'm trying to turn that automatic revulsion into something useable.

Many self-defense books are technique heavy, and technique is one of the least important things in a real encounter. Specific techniques fit in a specific space and time, and space and time are some of the things that get really screwed up. That's why, on top of technique being a poor basis for even a decent self-defense read, strategies based on sparring timing just don't work.

The space, the time and the positions are not the same.

Take a striker, a karateka who knows how to hit hard and has the skill to toy with an opponent. Let's make him a full-contact specialist. What does he or she need for self defense?

Maybe some advice on how to use that power, (and targeting, for that matter,) when the threat is behind or to the flank. Maybe with your head twisted back and up. That's common spacing and positioning. Add common timing and you have to act before you can accurately see anything or evaluate the threat. The bad guy gets surprise and compromises your structure and takes up space. He's the bad guy. If he can't do this, he's probably not ambushing you and your resonse probably isn't self-defense.

If you see an attack coming well enough that you can parry and use a strike to set up a finisher... it's probably not justified self-defense. You could have probably used that distance and those smarts to just get the hell out of there.

Yeah. So what should a self-defense book be about?
Maybe how and where to strike when off balance and bound up. Maybe even how to use your own off-balancing. Strikes that work. Not dojo folklore about what twelve pounds of pressure will do or what part of the skull is thin. Show me ten people (hell, show me one) who hit that point and got the other guy good and concussed. If something is supposed to be, according to some old scroll, potentially lethal find an example. Especially if it is someplace I've been hit an awful lot. Does it bother anyone that something I've been doing for fun for twenty years is being taught as potentially lethal and too dangerous to practice?

It goes throughout self defense. Fundamentals are important but the real skill in self-defense shooting is getting your weapon into play with no time or space and preferably without shooting your off hand. Then working the action because it will almost certainly jam that close. What I learned on the range AND what I learned as a tactical shooter are not the same skills a self-defense shooter needs. With very few exceptions, if a civilian uses my skills, they are the bad guy.

Sorry, I'm frustrated. As Irene once said, "What most self-defense instructors miss is the point."

I'll be better when the christmas music stops.


Mac said...

Every EVERY self-defense class I've ever taken, watched or taught(shame on me, but I was yunger and dumer then) starts AFTER the assailant takes the first move. You've already lost. REAL self-defense 'aborts' the attack by distance (running), verbal skills (buying time while seeking hard cover or the distance to be able to run) or ambush (pre-emptive strikes). Perhaps, like Rory is so found of doing, getting in close to "hug the belt" (General Vo Nguyen Giap, North Vietnamese Army commander) could be included. For pre-emptive striking, anyone can heel thrust a knee, thumb a throat or claw at the eyes; the techniques are easy to teach, easy to learn, but hard to execute in the 'oh, shit! moment. So, maybe there needs to be a class called, Oh SHIT! (standardized hitting in terror? subcutaneous hydraulic internalized trauma? systematic humane incident transitioning?) Or just plain, if hell's comin' to frogtown, then it's time to deliver some shit.

Nick Lo said...

@Mac (and Rory): "starts AFTER the assailant takes the first move. You've already lost.". Is that really always true? If someone has experienced taking beatings and the resulting physical and mental stress, don't they have an advantage over someone that hasn't?

Years ago, when going through "real life" scenarios one of my Wing Chun instructors said "expect to get hit". I couldn't help thinking "but we don't train in getting hit" so there was surely a large practical gap in the training. Lesson one: Get beaten up. Lesson two, three, etc: Now that you know how that feels and how you react, learn what you could have done.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

@Nick, the problem is that most people don't like getting hit and are so turned off by it that they then walk away when it happens.

Nick Lo said...

@The European Historical Combat Guild: Of course and I was intentionally ignoring the impracticality of beating up trainees. My point was more about the value of being told to "expect to get hit".

If self-defence was really the focus and we should "expect to get hit" then surely getting hit and hitting back in some way that approximated a real situation would be important elements of that training? Otherwise it's somewhat like learning how to dribble a soccer ball but never being tackled.

Anonymous said...

I guess the first time I ever got truly involved in home defence was when I got my dog.....a french mastiff.when I look at him I re-evaluated everything that i could do.........he's strong and powerfull and hellish fast...he's part of the real world of violence, if things got bad I'd want him by my side and he would be.
truth be told I like him more than most folks I know.
I can be a little fat old guy and he'll protect me against anything
just a way of looking at things I guess

Josh Kruschke said...

What Rory talks about, and it is probable his man theme thoughout a lot of his writing and what he is getting at here is that most people get caught only thinking of, training or teaching 'stage 6, The Fight' (or circle did you ever realy decide what yu wanted to call them?) of violent conflict.
If you are already taking damage; you are Fucked, and there's no guarantee that you will come out of it alive. You are not going to have the time to think of or use one of the 50 super uber duper techniques you learned in what ever style you trained in.
So, what ever you do it will have to be simple and done with out thought.
Lets not forget the other 5 Stages before and the 1 after when we thinkabout or train in Self-Defense.

Another one of his themes is how do you train or teach this.

This is what I've gotten out of his writtings,

Josh Kruschke said...

Ps. I can hardle wait for "Facing Violence" which from my understanding really delves into this.

Jim said...

The reality is that training the lead up is dull. It's not "sexy."

And it ignores some of the reality of attacks; real attacks often (typically?) don't give much (any?) warning when they happen. Of course, trying to train that is also a bit challenging...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, how to train the mindset. One that switches from "Oh shit!" to explosive reaction, whether it's to create distance, or return fire.

The Christmas music seems to be working.

Anonymous said...

The Marines are the only service which includes boxing as part of basic training. My understanding is that the point was to expose recruits, who are products of our society, to being hit; so they can learn that being hurt isn't the end of the fight.

The problem with focusing on the "before" seems to be this. On one level, some of that is easy-do not go to the wrong neighborhood, be aware of your situation, etc. Just being aware of what is going on around you will prevent a lot of attacks. On some levels that is so obvious it takes about this long to teach it, right?

The other side is when that fails. When it fails, it is too late to worry about it. I know a guy (grins) who coaches wrestling, was a college wrestler, still in very good shape-he was mugged on a beach in Mexico, paying attention to the girl he was with. He never saw the other guy until he had been hit with a weapon from behind.

A big barrier for a lot of people gets back to what Rory calls permission, and overcoming the social barriers most people have programmed into them not to hurt other people and which stand in the way of effective self defense. In self defense situations (where awareness and avoidance have failed, and the attack is underway) I suspect that is the biggest barrier to self defense.

Mt .02 C, your mileage may very.

Robert E.

Rory said...

Nick- i think if you look, Mac is right. like Joshkie says, most people teach the fight part as SD. The big gains are the precontact stuff.
Robert- lip-service to the "before" is easy, but how many people teach how to ID a bad place or the signs that something is developing? It is a skill, just because everyone has eyes doesn't meant they know what to look for.
Nick and EHC-judo and JJ players are a special breed. You can't do them without pain. I'm a little puzzled by any MA where you don't get hit, slammed and overwhelmed.
Jim- That's why having an operant conditioning aspect of training for ambush is so critical. the teaching method that works is there, it just needs to be tailored to the problem.

Dan Gambiera said...

So much of it is the needs of the audience and what they bring along. A book or class or training program that's perfect for one can be absolutely wrong for another. Or like I've said way too often "The best air conditioner in the world makes a lousy screwdriver."

What sort of situations are they likely to come up against? What are their attitudes towards violence, the law, self defense, fighting or anything else?

A 14 year old girl has much different needs and is starting from a very different emotional place than a professional soldier. At least I hope so. Neither of them will use most of the same skills or has the same requirements as a bouncer.

The young woman probably needs to learn that it's alright to shed some of her inhibitions against violence. The professional requirements for a bouncer or a police officer are much different.

Any sort of training material has to take these differences into account if it will get the right message to the people it has to reach.

There's an old story about an Egyptian military attache and his foreign counterpart. They were talking about how poorly his country had done against Israel.

"I don't understand it. We had good equipment. We had more men. Our officers were well-trained at the Soviet Union's best academies."

"What did they learn there?"

"Pull back and wait for winter."

Dan Gambiera said...

Rory, up to a certain point I'd say you're absolutely right about the pre-contact phase being where the biggest gains are. If it gets physical a lot of things have already gone wrong.

There's still a point "teaching the fight" that goes beyond pugging. People who aren't very experienced with violence often lack an emotional connection and deep understanding of what's going on before it gets bad. It's no just inoculation, which you've treated in great depth. It's having some sort of baseline experience so that they recognize what's going on emotionally before the conscious logical brain has put all the pieces together.

It's not how they've learned to punch and wrestle it's that they've learned to do it at all.

We once taught two classes back to back. In one we taught posture, eye contact and body language deterrence and de-escalation skills first.

It was a fiasco. People just didn't get it. A lot of them complained they were "acting".

In the second class we saved most of those for the end. The difference was amazing. They believed what they were doing. We believed them.

Maybe we were just a little better at teaching the material. I think that like the old saying goes "The body trains the mind" at least in the beginning. How much and when are another question.

Nick Lo said...

Rory - Thanks for the reply. Just to be a bit clearer, I wasn't questioning Mac's comment that too many self defence classes start "AFTER the assailant takes the first move" as that has been my experience too. In the wing chun classes I referred to, I think the very first thing we started with was how to punch. That's almost saying to every new student, "Ok the first thing you're going to learn to do is get stuck in..."

What I was curious about was "You've already lost" as I expect that in a situation where the "assailant takes the first move" your years of real-life experience (for example) would trump my years of no-real-life experience in being able to recover enough to defend yourself.

"judo and JJ players are a special breed." Interesting you say that as I started with Judo and have been looking at getting back into it for much the reasons you indicate.

Josh Kruschke said...

Dan where is the line between just enough confidence to be effective and to much where you get yourself into trouble?

Josh Kruschke said...

Ps. Dan did you ask them before both classes what they wanted to get out of it. As it seems to me in both classes they where there to manage fear and gain confidence as a posed to learning SD. The second classes expectations where met so they felt better about it. There expectations, probable going in; where that, they would learn to defense themselves as aposed to learning avoidance and de-escalation and the like.

Just my thoughts?