Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lots of False, Lots of True

Writing on something. This one is hard. Probably broader and more complex than anything else I've tackled. Teaching and learning for emergency skills.  The passage I'm working on now is the experience threshold issue:

Because most people have so little experience with violence, they go into violent professions with no idea of what a “normal” response is. The keyboard warriors who teach that every potentially violent encounter is a life threatening situation and must be dealt with using maximum force and the clueless protesters who can’t imagine why any “unarmed child” would ever have to be shot, show the breathtaking range and depth of ignorance on this subject. 
There are many ways to be stupid. Or, to put it slightly more gently, if ignorance of violence is a hole, there is a universe of fantasy possibilities to fill that hole-- fantasies ranging from visualizing world peace to nuke them all and let god sort them out.
But fantasies don't actually fill holes anymore than they stop bleeding.
So rookies have no idea of what normal is-- and there are many ways to be successful in violence professions. Most aren’t skilled martial artists, but some make that work. Some use size and strength, some don’t. Some rely on tools and weapons as a first option, some as a last resort. And there are a lot of ways to come to an understanding or a philosophy of force.
From Bruce Lee’s “Emotional content” to a sniper’s “The only thing you should feel is recoil.” There are completely incompatible concepts that work. Or “You must draw on your rage” to my “I don’t have the emotional energy to be angry all the time. Besides, when I’m angry I fight stupid.”
There may be a thousand stupid unworkable option for every good option, but there are a fair number of good options, too. And okay options. And passable options. And it's more global. It's not just a matter of what physical response is optimal in a specific situation (as if that answer would be the same for different sizes and personalities). At one level it's who you will be. Runners, Fighters and Talkers all successfully solve problems.
Again, this threshold rewires your brain. You can access your training, and it becomes less difficult the more experience you have.

And more, talking about modeling:

In the professional fields, rookies will model their mentors and cohorts. The first few encounters are very important to molding one’s fighting personality (See VAWG for more on that). If those first encounters happen in the company of mature, controlled professionals, the rookie will tend to become a good professional. If the rookie is working with hesitant and timid people, she will become hesitant and timid. If she works with aggressive people who use excessive force, she will become aggressive and uncontrolled. If she works with an individual or group that believes in only one option (e.g. talking, hand to hand, baton, gun…) she will be like the proverbial kid with a hammer seeing the world composed of nails. 


The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Thanks as always and happy Yule.

Jim said...

Once again -- you point out something that makes a work issue clear for me. Your last comment on modeling... It's not limited to fighting personality. It extends to the whole work personality a rookie develops. How they interact with people (or don't... Yeah, like everyone, I got stories!), how they deal with confrontation and challenge... It tells you a lot if you can identify who they're looking to as a model.

ann said...

So those first encounters are critical and rookies with better mentors are going to have an enormous advantage when it comes to growing into good professionals themselves, but is the situation necessarily so dire for those that are not so lucky? Learning must surely continue beyond those first encounters, at least for those with a reasonable ability to think critically. What can be done to mitigate the damage done by lack of strong mentorship early on?

Anonymous said...

I am one of those clueless protesters who objects to an armed officer killing an unarmed angry teenager. I was an angry teenager but I was lucky; I was also raised in the upper middle class so my angry was at worst interpreted as spoiled white girl not potentially lethally armed angry black boy in a shitty neighborhood. I have read with great interest Facing Violence and Meditations on Violence. From the point of view of an anesthesiologist who used to participate on the trauma team, from the point of view of a woman taking judo and jiu jitsu for self defense, from the point of view of a mother with daughters, I have found the perspectives in these books to be wonderfully, frighteningly, eye opening. Feeling invincible by virtue of practicing martial arts in a dojo has never been my problem but recognizing just how vulnerable we are was sobering. I enjoy reading the musings of your experience. I don't have any experience with violence directed at me but I do have experience with the aftermath of violence in the operating room, and on some minor level the experience of functioning outside of social norms. So, thanks for that, I guess!

Josh Kruschke said...


Is it that we lack experience or that what limited experience we have at the low end of the violence scale doesn't translate or scale up or side ways very well. You made a similar point in VAWG.

Mentors or the more experienced will either reinforce or discourage already learned or preconceived notions of what violence is.

"At one level it's who you will be. Runners, Fighters and Talkers all successfully solve problems."

Rookies or beginners are going to have developed in inclination or strategies. If they are runners they might want to work on fighting and talking strategies. What ever they are weak in is where they should focus on becoming better at, and trainers or mentors or the environment/culture the find themselves in can help or hinder this.

Josh Kruschke said...

P.S. In other words do or mentors develope our fighting style or do we already have a learned inclination from our expectancies growing up?

Rory said...

Ann-I don't want to use the words dire or hopeless, but in a lot of ways... It's like a baby. Bad parenting in early childhood sets the baby's expectation for what normal is. It takes immense will and a little luck (you have to chance into someone with better values who earns your respect to get the idea that change is possible, for instance) to transition from a really bad start. Rookies in this new world are almost that helpless. And add the tribal dynamic that any way YOUR tribe does it is the right way. So not hopeless, but almost as hard to recover from as a bad childhood.

Anon- If you protested before you had any facts, then I would definitely put you in the clueless category. If you tore up your own town to make a point to someone else, victimized your fellow citizens to try to hurt a vague concept of authority, then it's beyond just clueless. And if you want to change, for instance, the grand jury system because you don't like the results in one instance (where they had the facts and you did not) what other civil rights (because that's what the GJ is) would you jettison to get the results you wanted. If you are one of those protesters, you are one of the many pushing for fascism while deluding yourself that you are anti-authority.

Not saying you did or would do any of those things. But when I use the phrase clueless protesters, these are the one I'm talking about. And I fear it's the majority.

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Christopher said...

Several half-formed thoughts -

Parallels with nature vs nurture.

It's possible to go out beyond where you start and see different ways of doing things.

Someone (either Stevan Plinck or Bob Orlando)remarked that there are two ways to do a certain silat leg sweep and they'd observed that every student starts out with a favourite they use and the other one they dislike. However they'd noticed that after a period of time (I think it was a couple of years) each student seemed to suddenly switch and now the disliked version became the favourite and the previous favourite was abandoned. Likewise talkers can become fighters and fighters can become talkers. And so on.