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.


Chris Webber said...

Kind of like the Mike Tyson challenge - "If you had to get into the ring with Tyson, what fighting skill would you use, if you could choose from any?" "RPG firing".

I am currently reading "A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror". Similar stuff - get your opponent thinking outside his comfort zone, and get him into a constant "reacting to you" downward spiral...

Journeyman said...

Great post. And great point about the MMA reaction by law enforcement. As far as the MMA boom goes, when I train to deal with a MMA expert, I train those skills that are against the rules. Whatever they aren't allowed to do, I work on. Cheating, as you call it.

I posted on the "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" saying that is thrown around and the problems I feel the message conveys to some. Right in line with you example of little Johnny in the school yard.

Nick Lo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Lo said...

With regards to the font size: It looks like you're pasting from Microsoft Word as you're getting lots of nasty HTML like the following (which I've faked up a bit to allow it to pass the commenting filter):

<[span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family: Times-Roman; font-size: x-large;"]>

Notice the font-size setting in there. Starting with plain text and styling in whatever built in editor Blogger uses (I don't use Blogger so I'm guessing at this one) is a safer approach.

shugyosha said...

Regarding school fights: I got a friend with an infant girl. She's about four, I believe, and does chaining punches, BJJ grabs... Plus, she has the [weird] idea that doing them is "having fun with papa".

Apparently, they have some situations at school. Nothing serious, but some teachers are having their worldview challenged. And, of course, my friend almost had a heart attack when he heard his girl "was a tad violent" and "fought a lot". He started imagining things.

I mean, that kid can down an unprepared martially proficient adult.

Take care.

Lise Steenerson said...

Love this post!
Teach a cop MMA and you have a cage fight on the street. Cops are not there to participate in a conflict but to end it.

shugyosha said...


but, but... I already bought my popcorn!

Spoilsport. ;)

Take care.

Rob Lyman said...

So, MMA guy comes at me, and I have baton, Taser, OC, two guns, three knives and my personal favorite, a little orange button on the radio.

Learning about MMA is logical. Learning MMA is ridiculous.

Jake said...


This just popped into my head, but I'm not sure I like the word "cheating". It's not cheating. It's problem solving.

RE: Rob's example above...batons, tasers, guns, knives, and backup are all illegal in MMA. If you bring them to an MMA fight, you will lose (by disqualification, if nothing else). (Yes, I'm ignoring the question of how you got that shit into the ring/cage in the first place...go with it).

But if an MMA guy is assaulting police officers...the officers aren't cheating, they're problem solving. They're playing the game they're supposed to play, in a sense. The MMA guy is playing it wrong.

I'm not sure the terminology matters much, except that "cheating" creates a negative mindset for some people. Problem solving sounds nicer.

JasonR said...

I agree with this approach broadly speaking. It's always better to not fight your opponent's fight. The problem is that people can gain a false sense of security by relying on dirty tricks and also use it as an excuse not to get fitter, stronger and more skillful.

The truth is that going up against a young, fit cage fighter intent on doing harm is always going to be a major challenge.

David said...

The box phenomenon is extremely important to me...not creating these self imposed boxes is the key to freedom of thought and action. Alan Watts wrote a great essay on the subject in his book "Talking Zen".

With regard to martial arts, self defense, and cheating, I think it applies equally, as it does with all of life. However, I share JasonR's concern on at least one level. And this is somewhat related to what I left in the comments of the last post regarding training.

Kano's judo players could easily beat ju jutsu practitioners even though the ju jutsu guys had the "dirty tactics" and could go beyond the TECHNICAL "rules" of judo. So if we're talking on a technical level, and to a large extent on a training level, a cop without the ability to strike and wrestle vs. an MMA guy with those abilities, will nearly always lose IF he FIGHTS unarmed. There are plenty great moves that an MMA guy will be unprepared for, but in order to pull them off in a fight, the cop is going to need the base of skills MMA type training provides. Otherwise, he'll never be able to even think about the out-of-the-box moves. He'll just be beaten to a pulp, slammed to the ground, or end up with a guy on his back choking him unconscious.

Now, if by cheating you mean NOT fighting, or pretending not to fight to take the guy by surprise in a way that has a high chance of success...that's different. But sometimes, that's very hard/impossible to do. Maybe what really needs to happen, is the 8 hour/year DT training needs to be rethought! Cops having 3 hours a week or so of physical training would ONLY be a good thing.

Lise Steenerson said...

Shugyosha.... better save it for a good movie :)

shugyosha said...


but... they'll go stale!


The Strongest Karate said...

The best way to beat a man is to fight outside his rule-set.

Fighting a boxer? Stay out of range and kick him.
Fighting a kick boxer? Take him to the ground.
Fighting a grappler? Taze him or call for back up ahead of time!
Fighting a well rounded figher? Better shoot him. (Hyperbolic, yes. Just making a point.)

Anonymous said...

How about a 9-year old 'special needs' girl running into the street and clawing, kicking, biting, scratching and twisty-arching-flopping when anyone tried to restrain her? Talk about going off script! Add shrieking loud enough to shatter glass. She was not to be denied her suicide. Never happen, you say? As often as being mugged. It is estimated by the medical establishment (I won't quote sources here but they're easy enough to check) that 1 out of 5 people are mentally ill to a level/type/intensity to need daily medicating. So, how about percetive/verbal/emotional training for the '1234' script?

Rory said...

Grrrrrr. Don't look at this too narrowly.
Journeyman- Not just against the rules- do you have to play that game at all?
Nick- Thanks.
Rob-- Not ridiculous. There are lots of good reasons for it. But, especially for a cop, the idea of beating someone at his or her game is not just sometimes bad tactics, but the first step in the thought process is wrong and that leads to many other mistakes.
Jake--Maybe. But my point is less about cheating from your own point of view than recognizing and exploiting the assumptions that the other brings to the situation. Just look at the comments here and see how many assumed a specific kind of conflict and a specific condition of victory.
Jason and Strong Karate- Look broader. Not just big and fit and trained but sometimes MI or EDP too, Mac and I (and others) have calmed and sometimes befriended that profile. Maybe you are looking outside the ruleset of the game, but you are still looking at the game the threat has dictated.
David- More to comment on, but 3 hours of training a week means 7.5 hours of pay (time plus overtime to cover the shift). Agencies balk at paying that.

shugyosha said...


I saw a Youtube in a milblog some days ago of several officers taking down some naked guy in the street. The blogger was ranting because while the male officers had been tackling the guy, the female LEO had taken a glimpse and tased the guy.

I kept thinking "well, duh. Well done".

Rory talks about "nightmare opponents". Apparently, a buff MMA fighter punches some buttons, here. OK, guys: not even considering MA, it's likely that every one of you outmasses and "out-fits" me by the same margin. I'm currently below 120 lbs. I *cannot* stop any of you on standard terms. This includes women. This is my reality.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

In reference to folks who learn a little bit of martial arts(mma, etc.), get drunk/high, and then decide to take on the police for no good reason: "A little learning CAN BE a dangerous thing."
- Azar

Damien said...

Rory summed it up well:

My thoughts in a nutshell.

Musashi arrived late and fought with an oar instead of a sword. He was "Samurai" where was his honor ? :))). Fighting = mini battles, battles = war - Its all fair in love and war - There is no reason to look outside that paradigm. I have regard for the law but no time for rules.

Jim said...

The whole "gotta prepare for MMA by training MMA" is something that bugs me, as you've probably gathered by now.

Like you said -- the answer to how to beat a whatever isn't to try to meet them on their terms. My job as a cop isn't to play fair -- it's to win. So, if I have to take down a competitive MMA fighter, I'm going to be smart about it. I'll use a Taser, I'll use a couple of buddies, and if I do have to go hand-to-hand, I'm going to use tools, weapons and targets that he doesn't expect. In other words -- I'm going to CHEAT MY ASS OFF!

Journeyman said...


Not thinking narrowly. I never want to knife fight a knife fighter or grapple with a grappler, box with a boxer and on and on. First strategies will always be verbal intervention, numbers, time, distance and cover, tactics, surprise, use of force options etc. My point was, that if all that failed and I found myself in a unarmed battle with an MMA practitioner, I'd focus on what's outside their toolbox or set of 'rules'.
Interesting comments on your post.

Roll Cage Mary said...

I like what the dude did in the movie Apocalypto, with throwing a hive of pissed-off wild bees at the bad guys.

I like that sort of 'cheating' where you get to roll in mud.