Friday, July 27, 2012


My legs are shot.  Have been for a while.  Very tiny broken bone in the socket of my big toe.  Broke it the first time in a match a long time ago and every time it almost heals it re-breaks.  On the same side, the ankle is popped.  Finally got some good advice from a physical therapist and it is slowly improving.  On the other side, I tried to brace to block a pair of rolling bodies in Greece last month and something popped from my knee to my hip.  It doesn't hurt most of the time, but the knee has collapsed suddenly a couple of times since then and the hip doesn't like  certain angles at all...

Just whining.  It has interfered with working out and I can feel my wind getting weaker, imagine my legs atrophying...

Movement is a physical skill and takes physical practice.  It does degrade over time.

Not quite changing the subject-- went caving yesterday with my son.  I used to love it, but years ago, when I hit that stage where my adrenal glands were completely burned out, I gave it up.  I gave a lot of things up.  Caving became just a hike underground.  Kayaking was a cold, wet, upper-body workout.  Climbing Mt. Adams was just a cold uphill hike in the snow.  No adrenaline, no thrill, no joy.  The petty annoyance of getting the gear together wasn't balanced by the excitement of the climb anymore.

Anyway, the boy said we hadn't hit a cave together in a long time.  Years, in fact.  And he wanted to.  And hike and shoot a little, as well.  Side effect of all the travel and my lovely wife reorganizing our home multiple times while I was away, I couldn't find my technical gear.  Somewhere in the house or the garage is a big bag of carabiners and jumars and webbing and extra helmets and gloves and kneepads and... couldn't find it.

So, since it was all free solo, we limited the climbing.  Some.

At first, everything hurt.  Knees, ankle, broken toe.  And I was clumsy.  Clumsy by my own standards, anyway.  In a lava tube, you spend most of the time moving over breakdown, piles of rock fallen from the ceiling.  It is the ultimate broken-country hiking.  The lava has never weathered and is sharp.  Some is stable, much is not and shifts under your feet.  Holes and spikes.  Slippery areas from the constant drip.

I remembered, in that dark place, that this was what I loved.  Not the view, although it is always cool to see something rare.  But the feeling of moving, swiftly, reading the rocks with a glance but mostly by feel.  Adapting as a rock started to roll and using the roll or countering it.  I had forgotten, but in the dark I remembered.  And my body remembered.  Starting like a clumsy noob with twinges of limping pain in an hour I was flowing again, foot-to-foot, using gravity in a falling run sometimes, pushing off boulders or wall with my hands to leap rock to rock to rock... and my ankle didn't hurt much.  And I didn't notice the twinges from the toe.  The other knee started to collapse a few times, but even that was better.

It was a good time.  Found a new beautiful place to camp.  Did a little tracking.  Got my son to tighten up his grouping to almost acceptable standards.  I'll be sore later today, but it was glorious to move like that again.

Monday, July 23, 2012


"I can't do that."

Most of the time, people are thinking cause and not effect, or motion rather than results.  "I can't do that (hit hard, or knock someone down or pull a trigger) because I'm (too weak, too small, too...)"  It's mostly horseshit.  You can do it (get the effect) but you probably can't do it in that way.

Can't do some kind of force block against a stronger man's kick?  Congratulations, you're normal.  But doing that particular defense against that particular attack isn't the point.  The point is to not get hit. Not getting hit is much easier.  And much more personal.  Small people and large people do it differently, as do timid and aggressive people.  It's not a one-size fits all.

Anyone, barring vegetative states or nearly complete paralysis, can take out anybody else.  They just can't all do it the same way.  You can't score on your sifu? He can't block a bullet.  Competitor so tough he can take anything you dish out?  Quit using your fists and use a car.  This mindset ties back to cheating and a number of other things.  The big idea to take away, though, is to understand when you are limiting your own options because you have either chosen or been brainwashed to look at a situation from only one point of view.

But that's not the point of this post.

"I can't do that," she said.  It was a basic self-defense problem, a question that has been asked and answered a hundred times.  And that's what I do professionally, so three different proven, workable options off the top of my head in ten seconds.

"Those don't work."
"You've tried them?"
"No, but you don't understand.  I can't do that."
Oh.  This was never about trying to find an answer.  This was about preserving identity.  Nick asked me once about students who just don't get it.  There aren't a lot of people who can't get it.  There are a fair number who refuse to get it. I walk away from those.

You can teach people who want to learn.  Despite almost any psychological trauma or physical or mental disability, it is a matter of finding the words and the modality, a way to communicate and a way to practice.  It's not that hard.

But you cannot teach people who refuse to learn.  No matter how enthusiastic they seem or the certificates they have collected, if they are coming to you to get their world view confirmed instead of refined (or, preferably, rocked), you are wasting your time.

Understand this-- they are not wasting their own time.  They carefully sift what you say, latch on to anything they like, completely forget anything they don't and walk away more ignorant and more confident than when they arrived.  It is good value for them.  That is what they want.

And when an inability "I can't" has become part of their identity, they will fight the truth with everything they have.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Training Artifact

T stomped down on my knee.  Why?  It was pressed forward.  I could take his entire weight at that point at that angle.  A kick to either side not only would have done more damage, but would have been quicker and less telegraphed.  We talked about it, and he saw immediately that he had hit me in the one way that would do the least harm.  Why?  Habit.

Later, D did a hugely telegraphed sidekick (a true kansetsu geri) to the outside of my knee.  Her chambering action, had it been applied to the inside of my knee, would have done more damage, faster and with less warning.  "It's a habit," she said, "we go to the outside of the knee so we don't hurt anyone."  The better to protect the students.

During the targeting drill, I almost wanted to call it off.  There are a lot of good targets on the human body.  It is not difficult to put a body down.  But somethings require very specific angles (in and up on the C1 vertebra has an entirely different effect than straight in) or specific conformations (the difference between gouging a nerve with the tip of your thumb and the pad is profound.)

Skilled martial artists, but almost the whole room was working on reproducing motion, not effect.

Mostly, it was a collection of training artifacts.  The trouble with kata, or doing forms in the air, is that you start worrying about whether it looks right.  Let me tell you, of the five senses, looking is the least able to tell you if you did something right in a fight.  Hearing bone break, smelling blood, the all important feel of a good hit... okay, maybe taste is more useless in evaluating effectiveness in a fight.  Maybe.

You want to see if the form looks right, so you remove the obstacles (including the bad guy) from the field of vision to see it better...and so you remove both the greatest problem and the best feedback from the equation. Precision without effectiveness.

The guys who trained mainly by flow were doing it, too.  More concerned with whether it felt right internally (you know, each strike felt like a natural extension of the last) than whether any of the strikes would have done anything to the threat.

So, next time you are doing a drill that involves another person stop and evaluate: if I did do this, to this target at this angle with this hand conformation...what would happen?  And if the answer is, "Not a damn thing," you need to fix that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Eight-hour class Saturday in Elko, NV. The sign-ups so far are all women and the host, Subtle Warrior Self-Defense, LLC, specializes in WSD, so the lesson plan is going to go that way.

The outline of what I want to teach is right here and so much of it is not physical.  Almost all of it centers on two aspects of the triangle-- Awareness and Permission.  Largely because almost every failure that I have seen came from these issues.

The outline:
Introduction and Safety Briefing.  Talking points include:

  • What I don't know
  • Understanding what you need
  • Chosen beliefs that may be dangerous or false
  • Fear versus danger
Bad Guys
  • Social (and types)
  • Asocial (and types)
  • Social scripts gone toxic 
  • Asocial behavior disguised as social scripts

Threat Assessment

  • Potential for danger: Places (including reading terrain); Time; Understanding normal; Personal threat profiles for each student.
  • Existence: Time; distance; demeanor; signs of adrenalization
  • Evaluation: Primary indicators of social vs. asocial, e.g. proxemics; witnesses; disparity of force behaviors; skill indicators

Quick detour into Logic of Violence: the questions the threat must answer and what those mean to your preparation.

Prevention by type

Internal Skills

  • Recognize personal conditioning
  • Be rude
  • Permission
  • Finding the switch
Physical Skills
  • Leverage
  • Momentum
  • Environmental Fighting
  • 'A' and 'B' strikes (A are reliable and require little strength or practice; B are reliable but require a little skill or power to pull off)
  • Counter-assault
Strategic Skill: Fight to the Goal

I kind of want to add self-defense law.  It's not as important for most women unless they are afraid of it, at least not in a legal sense.  But some people find that when they mentally justify actions to an imaginary jury, they can act because they have also justified acting internally.  Also, the Logic of Violence section can be expanded to look at a crime longitudinally, and the different options at each stage.

Lots to cover.  Not sure there will ever be enough time to make the people I care about safe enough.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

After the Q

The weirdest part, I think, is that I don't have a black eye. Irene caught a perfect head butt right on the edge of the orbital socket... but that is one of the sadnesses of my life.  I don't seem to get edema quite like other folks.  Usually, I just miss out on some extra sympathy.  A couple of times doctors have misdiagnosed broken bones.

Good playtime.  I especially liked playing with Justin in the kitchen tent.  With whisky breaks.  Sitting with the group around the narghilah, sharing memories.  Coffee with Edwin and Irene. Thai massage class.  Having some professors try to explain a physics conundrum in simple enough language for me.

And images... if you can imagine what would happen if the Incredible Hulk mugged Tinkerbell and tried to wear her clothes... then add a ninja master in a donkey suit on a leash... I'm sure there was a lesson there (there was) but, damn.  If the picture ever gets posted it will be in the "Surreal" album, along with the ostrich in a sweater.

The first hard copies of "Campfire Tales From Hell" were available, and maybe 20% of the authors.  A lot of people gave an autograph for the first time. It was fun to see them blush.  CreateSpace looks like it works.  Some talk under the tiki torches about sequels.

One theme that kept coming up was relationships.  The media slams us with images that people with intense lives must be broken, must have horrible or no relationships.  If you want your mind blown, go to a gathering of go-to people and meet their spouses and children.  You will meet strong, decisive brilliant wives and husbands and children.  They are the best of us and we know it and appreciate it, and some would love to tell that story.  The guy that can teach you how to make a functional shank from a styrofoam cup and the guy who runs a state police unit and the guy who has hit bottom hardest and come back strongest...all want to write about their wives.

One more night of play in Colorado Springs at Deb Cupple's Community Karate Club.

Then on to Elko, Nevada for a Saturday seminar with Subtle Warrior Self-Defense.

Then home.

Friday, July 13, 2012


YMAA wants to film a companion video to "Drills" in August in Boston.  In one day.  That's ambitious, there are 72 drills listed in the expanded version.  The video has to be able to stand on its own, too.  And, IMO, the most important types of survival knowledge won't really work on a video.
Important type part one-- knowing yourself and the world, learning to make a good decision and execute it.  All the stuff that keeps defense from ever going physical in the first place. The really big safety gains are right here.
Important part 2-- In a visual media you can only see what something looks like.  Looking 'right' is almost completely useless when things go bad.  It is a matter of feeling, internal and external.  You have to feel balance.  You can see it, but eyes will never be fast enough to use it. A good hit and a bad hit can look almost the same, but they feel very different, on both ends.  You can learn about this stuff (whether the stuff is fighting or self-defense or play) by watching.  But learning about a thing is not learning the thing.  You have to get in and play.

So, the script outline (current version):
Basics on safety, goals, teaching.  Who needs what types of drills (e.g. if you play hard, you have developed safety flaws that you play slow to overcome, but if you ONLY play slow, you will unprepared for the speed and impact).

For each drill a quick brief on safety issues, how to execute the drill, what is learned and what isn't.  What might be conditioned, good or bad.

---Slow Man Drills as a coaching option
---Three-way coaching
Four Option One-Step
---Targeting Drill as an adjunct training method
Blind Fold Series
---Include Core Defense and Core Fighting
Dance Floor Melee
---Introduce the debriefing concept
---Explain tricks and one-offs
Environmental Fighting
Mass Brawl
Jujutsu Randori

That's sixteen drills from the book.  Might be interesting to add a check list or some of the personal soul-searching exercises to the inserts.  It's not nearly comprehensive, but will still be ambitious to shoot in a single day.

For those of you that have read drills, are there any in there that aren't on this list that really need a visual tutorial?  Which were the hardest to understand in writing?

Monday, July 09, 2012


A few years ago a friend thought it would be really cool to have a jujutsu forum open only to people he had hand-picked.  Robert wanted intelligent people who wouldn't get into bullshit turf wars. I told him he should change the name to FORWAS-- "Friends of Robert Who Aren't Stupid."

Recently, another friend tried something similar.  He tried to create a collaborative of hand-picked experts.  The trouble is that one person's expert is another person's kool-aid drinking moron.

Everything, for me, devolves around a value/cost ratio.  Maybe it does for everybody, but if so some people are doing it really wrong.  Everything involves a certain amount of time, attention and usually aggravation.  What are you getting for it?  Facebook, for instance, is very close to the line for me.  The only saving grace is that I can ignore it, sometimes for weeks.  I gave up BBS (Bulletin Boards) while I was in Iraq.  Too time consuming.  Not a lot of new information.  When I had more time and access I found I didn't miss them.

At a deep level I'm pretty mission focused.  I like teams because they are effective.  I have a deep attachment to a small group of people but it is almost entirely based on what we have accomplished together.  I've never joined an organization or group just to be a member.

Conversely, I've almost never been uncomfortable in any group.  Not into what they were into, sure.  Sometimes with a deep antipathy to what they stood for (remember my day job for years was to be locked into a dorm with 16-190 criminals.)  But I never felt uncomfortable.  Never felt either that I did belong or that I didn't belong.  So I could hang with Kurdish smugglers and operators and criminals and cops and even a handful of people who can only be called saints.  Atheists, pagans, exorcists and mystics.  And always enjoy them as people.

But I never really understood the need that makes some people take a belief as an identity and seek out others with the same belief.  Take that back.  I do understand it.  I've watched that tribalism on many levels my whole life.  I do understand it, can predict it...I've just never felt the need that drives it.  So understand the mechanism, but not the motivation.

Some very wise person once said that whenever a new tactical team is formed, the first order of business is to design a patch.  It came up with my team once and I said, "It doesn't help with the mission.  Do that costumes and jewelry bullshit on your own time."  Completely surprised by the negative reaction.  To many people, the symbols are the tribe.

And that's one of the reasons I like the VPPG.  Just people getting together to solve problems.  Mutual respect without some kind of hierarchy or structure.  The system is for function and hasn't become a ritual.  Effort going into the tribe is not going into the problem solving.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Joy of Cheating

We do almost everything in boxes, in tight little scripts.  This type of problem is solved this way.  That type of problem is solved differently.  We are habitual thinkers.  Most of the time, if we do break out of one box, it is just to step into a different one.  My suspicion is that the world is very big, full of possibility and many people, maybe all, almost surely most are very uncomfortable with an unbounded world. When they find that chaos and freedom, the first instinct is to create or impose rules.

Which implies that in any given interaction, all the involved people are bringing their own rules to the situation.  Generally, in any given society, the rules are agreed upon.  Bluffing in cards is fine, implying your hand is different than it is is simply good strategy...but sending signals to your partners is cheating.  The rues are all agreed upon, almost all subconscious...and all artificial.

If you see the situation clearly enough, you can almost always cheat from the other person's point of view.  You can almost always break rules that are only rules that exist in the other person's head.  And that is a huge advantage.

I want to do a film on "Self-defense Advice in Real Life."  One of the segments would be a mom answering a call from the school.  Little Johnny had heard self-defense instructor daddy say one too many times, "There are no rules in a street fight" and "Every fight is potentially a fight for your life" so when another second grader pushed him and called him a name, Johnny used daddy's logic and stabbed the kid.

Erik Kondo wants me to do a short article on things that sound logical but are not.  I won't do the article because he outlined it so well that it would feel like plagiarism.  Erik can write it.  But one of his examples:

With the rise of MMA, police have been concerned about what to do if faced with a trained cage fighter.  The solution has often been to get one of the best MMA guys in the world to teach cops some MMA so that they can hold their own.

On the surface, if you don't think about it too much, that sounds logical.  Until you do the math.  An officer is lucky to get eight hours a year in DT training.  No matter how good the coach, eight hours a year will not trump someone who does eight hours a week in the same skill set.  The ability of the trainer  matters, but not to the tune of a 400hr/year difference in training time.

The trick is to do eight hours a year in a skillset that the other person is not prepared for.  Cheating, or what appears to be cheating from the other person's subconscious ruleset.

And that is it's own specialty.  The ability to see the rules (subconscious and conscious, from physics to laws to habits) and voluntarily choose which to obey.  Strategically choose the ones that are advantageous to break.  Stay within laws and policy, because that is the job, but step outside of expectations.  Because that works, very well.


BTW, Blogger's last update sucks.  I have no idea why the font is so big and the first attempt to post cut off all the words on the right margin.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Training Live

  I heard (again--sigh) that classical systems don't train live.  Maybe some don't.  Maybe most don't.  This is the list of the types of sparring that we did under Dave.  I don't know for sure how much was introduced by him and how much was already in the system.

Kumite- was straight up non-contact karate point sparring.

Tachiwaza randori- Judo throwing randori.

Newaza randori- Grappling.  It was under judo rules, but sometimes we would ignore the 25-second osaekomi ippon and keep going.  We didn't incorporate leg locks.  They were in the syllabus, but we played by judo rules.  I incorporate them now when I play.

Judo randori- combining both of the above

Sparring- was controlled contact but all strikes, throws, locks and immobilizations were allowed.  Contact was graded up to what we called 'stiff'.  Beginners would work light contact.

Jujutsu randori.  We had two different things called JJ randori.  One was counter assault.  Uke would give a committed attack and tori would take him out.  I now call this drill take-outs.  The second, cooler version was similar to 'sparring', above.  All techniques allowed.  Stiff contact (but it had to be controlled-- you wanted people to know they were open, you wanted it to hurt and impede, but still be okay for work the next morning) but it started at contact range.  Chest touching chest, chest touching back or chest touching flank.
There are a lot of reasons I love that drill.  You are in range for everything-- strikes (including head butts and some very interesting kicks) gouges, locks, throws and puppetmastering. Which means that everything you do has to be coordinated.  It is so fast and so close that if there are any divisions in your mind between classes of technique or offense and defense you will not be able to keep up.
Can't do that one in a seminar format.  Everyone needs superb breakfall skills; there has to be a level of trust and control (you will remember stiff contact from a head butt.  You might not be able to remember uncontrolled contact) and people who haven't been exposed to that tend to panic.

There are other live trainings.  Stuff not from Dave:

With Mac:

Contact stick fighting- Padded sticks and hockey gear

Mixed weapons- Level of contact depending on the weapon and the armor... but, yeah.  Fun.

From the Agency:
ConSim- Full blown scenarios with all force options and policy and force law in play.  Critical for developing judgment.

Stuff I've added:
The One-step- In a lot of ways this is the introductory version of JJ randori.  The big advantage is that you can do it safely with strangers even in environmental fighting.  It's live, but it misses the pain, fear and most of the effort (not quite the right word) of fighting.  How about very good live training but very low resistance?  That about sums it up.

Rolling Dirty- Grappling with the strikes, gouges and normally illegal locks in.  Have to control contact because, obviously, hammering the brainstem or rupturing an eardrum will really mess up someone's day.

All of these have value and you learn something. And with all of them you completely fail to learn other things.  Train hard, but don't fall in love with a method.  Training for dangerous things will never have a one-to-one correlation with doing dangerous things. Not unless the training has the same casualty rate as the event.