Friday, May 10, 2013


There are no experts here.
To recap the last post and the comments on the last post- A “High level conversations” isn’t a matter of knowledge or experience, not in this field.  Knowledge and experience never hurt of course.  Not ‘never.’  If the experience is overblown or misremembered or poorly extrapolated it can go bad.  If the knowledge is of myth, folklore and received wisdom without a reality check the conversation could be very high-falutin’, but the information passed could be deadly.
Here’s the deal.  Extreme violence happens at the edge of what humans were evolved to handle.  Much of it happens in contradiction to our early conditioning about reality.  And it happens in a stew of stress hormones that affect perception, cognition and memory. 
My experience is that very few people experience enough serious violence that the lessons learned there replace social expectations.  Even fewer experience enough to get a handle on the sensory and perception distortion.  Only a percentage of those have the discipline, desire and/or job requirement to evaluate those distortions and compare them with the actual events (I will go on record as thankful for the hundreds of reports I had to write, though I hated them at the time).
And of those few, the number that have experienced more than one very small piece of this big puzzle are vanishingly small.  Soldiers learn part of it (different parts at different intensities depending on MOS and era); cops learn a different part; bouncers another part; targets for sexual assault a much different part.  As do the night clerk at the local Stop-n-Rob or any of the actors in a domestic violence cycle.  And cross a border or change the decade and many of the rules and social conventions of violence change.
So one of the students at the Oakland seminar asked if he was qualified to teach.  The sentiment was an echo of Pax in the comments on the last post.
I don’t know what qualified means. The best handgun instructor I ever had has shot exactly one man.  In the back.  It wasn’t a gunfight.  It wasn’t the way wannabe’s fantasize.  A bad man needed to be shot to save the life of a third party and my instructor did it in the safest, smartest way.
I can think of three (at least) of the top handgun instructors in the country who have never shot anyone.  Does that make them unqualified?  And some of their students have used the training and survived.  How much does that mean, really?
My jujutsu instructor, as far as I know, never went toe-to-toe with a PCP freak.  But he gave me the confidence to do it and the skills to be successful.  But one of the things Dave said, when I hit green belt and started questioning whether this stuff would really work: “I don’t know if jujutsu will work.  But I know you.  You’re a fighter and you’re adaptable.  You’ll make it work.”
And out of left field—my wife sometimes teaches belly dance and she’s used those concepts to vastly improve my understanding of body mechanics and increase my striking power.  Movement is movement and movement experts of any kind can help you.
So are you qualified?  Depends. Can you make people better?
One of my FB friends was assigned to do an essay on why he was a self-protection expert.  It was essentially a self-esteem building exercise, and he did a good job… but I would encourage every SD instructor to write a little private essay on why they are not experts.  To get a start on the very long list of things that they do not know.  It’s not only humbling, but it gives you a place to start when  you need to learn.
So, I don’t know qualified, but I can pick out unqualified in a heartbeat.
If you are there for your ego instead of the student’s improvement, walk away.
If you don’t know the basic context of modern self-defense (how attacks happen, SD law and the legal process, etc.) you aren’t ready to teach yet.  And if you haven’t, on your own, recognized the need and started researching this stuff, you aren’t responsible enough to teach yet.
If you think trying to teach martial artists to fight is the same as trying to teach a victim profile not to be targeted, you aren’t teaching what you think you are teaching.
If you need to be top dog, you might be teaching people to win but you are conditioning them to lose.  You are creating victims.
If you think SD is primarily a physical skill, you don’t understand the basics.
If you think your experience, whatever it is, qualifies you to talk authoritatively about things outside your experience, it’s a red flag.
If your techniques require a martial athlete in top condition to work, they’re inappropriate for self-defense.  And probably really inefficient.

The trouble with this list, of course, for those of you wondering about your qualifications is that they are much harder to see from inside your skin.  You have to develop a group of honorable enemies.


Narda said...

Nice post. And if you don't mind, I'm going to link/post it to a forum discussion that has managed to get under my skin. :)

Josh Kruschke said...

"If you think your experience, whatever it is, qualifies you to talk authoritatively about things outside your experience, it’s a red flag."

Josh Kruschke said...

A question I have about experiance (from the point of view of a student)?

How do you get experience or build confidence in the skill from the second half of the 'How not to get Stabbed' list with out breaking some of the don't be stupid parts of the list? How do we foster enough confidence to act not freeze, but not become arrogant to the point that we stop learning?

Is the answer the answer the same? Are our honorable enemies then our teachers?

Unknown said...

I have thought about this a lot, as I have never experienced or dealt with real nasty violence, just a few unpleasant situations.The way I've come round to looking at this in the classes I've been teaching is that my 'qualification' is experiencing the same fears and questions as the women in the group, and I'm trying to pass on the best answers and information I have found from people like yourself, Marc, Geoff. etc.