Thursday, May 21, 2015


25 hours (about) into the 40 hour Core Dump in Edmonton. It's going well, and the entire Canada trip deserves an AAR. We've covered some new stuff and some core stuff in new ways. It's working, but it's not "a" thing that's working. It's a convergence of a bunch of different things-- attitudes, philosophy, understanding-- that make it possible. As always, there's more going on than I can see clearly, but here are some of the things.

Philosophy. Nothing about survival or self-protection or self-defense or whatever you want to call it is difficult or unnatural. This is exactly the problem we were evolved to solve. Not being a victim is part of our deepest wiring. Mind, body and spirit have all the tools. This is not about forging warriors, this is about rehabilitating predators.
I can corroborate that eight ways from Sunday, as my dad used to say. Talk to any cop or bouncer who has ever had to fight an untrained woman for real and ask if they want to repeat the experience. Read Strong on Defense and look at what the survivors did and the mindset they tapped into.
 That's for me. But the students have to hear it too, and further, they have to be told a really ugly truth: Almost all of society is set up to perpetually brainwash them so that they never remember their own power.

The physical part isn't hard. It's breaking that damn social conditioning. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone keep fighting after a cupped-hand slap to the ear?  And how long does it take to master that? I've heard of one who kept going after a throat chop. Other strikes are far less reliable, but there is a solid core of 'A' techniques. And even if there wasn't, there are these handy things called "tools". Breaking people is not hard. Our ancestors solved that problem before they were even human.
Rephrase. It's not physically hard. But the social conditioning gets in the way. Almost every officer I've debriefed who got hurt knew exactly what he needed to do, but somehow couldn't make himself act. And that's not even taking into account fear, surprise, or the fact that the bad guy will do his best to psychologically control the victims so they don't fight back.
That is the hard part.

Understanding that most teaching methods work the wrong parts of the brain. Memory, rote, names and labels and techniques mean jack shit in chaos. Technique-based training is the easiest-- for the teacher. And for administrators who need "measurable." But it is possibly the worst possible way to teach people about chaos. Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Four ways to get things into a student's mind and body. Each has a time and place, but each is also useless in other areas.

(And that might be a nice article-- designing drills. Knowing the purpose; knowing which of the four methods are appropriate; checking for pollution e.g. thinking you're using operant conditioning but critiquing turns it into training; and means testing to see if it worked.)

Understanding the problem, obviously. If you don't know attacks, you can't teach SD. Just like you can't teach medicine if you don't know disease and injury. Want to know one of my red flags? If someone shows me what they do and it's clearly based on sparring timing, distance and orientation, then they're just fantasizing.

The partners need training as well. The attacks have to be attacks. You have to be able to project the physical and emotional intensity of grabbing a woman by the throat and slamming her into the wall. Those are the physics she must learn to deal with. That is a taste of the emotional environment in which she will have to deal with those physics. You have a responsibility to be a good bad guy for your partner.

And training tip of the week (or subtle student manipulation, if you want to look at it like that): "You must give your partners good attacks. I know that you're good people and it's hard for you. But if you attack them weak, or slow, or gently, you are literally endangering their lives. Do you want your partner to get hurt because you were so self-conscious you couldn't help her prepare?"
What's subtle about it? The reps of acting ferocious combined with the idea that you are being ferocious for the benefit of someone else will likely also make it easier to slip the leash if you need to for real.

Clear goals. Martial artists try to adapt martial arts to self-defense and usually think of the physical part as just fighting very hard. And fighting has almost nothing to do with it.

Avoidance is best, obviously. Not being chosen as a target, not being isolated if you do get chosen, not allowing yourself to be psychologically controlled. If it goes hands on, well... who would you take out? And how? Shoving down an old lady on a walker and going through her purse? Slamming a drunk tourist's head into the pipe above the urinal? There's almost nothing in the "fight" paradigm for the kinds of attacks that happen. It's a qualitatively different problem. Using the medicine analogy, it's like using a four-week antibiotics regimen for a severed femoral artery. Pre-hospital trauma care is a different skill than fighting disease.

If you know the problem, you can clarify the goals. When it must go hands on, the only sensible options are escape, disable, or control-- and control pretty much only applies to people who have a duty to act and take people into custody. The body mechanics, as well as the mindsets, are very dissimilar between those three. And all are different from fighting. And, for martial artists, that's the second biggest challenge. For most people, the big challenge is getting them to slip the leash and go hands on at all. For martial artists, it's fighting their urge to stand and fight. To get to their preferred distance and orientation and have a duel.
Clarifying the goal, working the body mechanics of escape, for instance, makes the skills pretty easy to get down. But the emotional, social and mental parts are still hard.


Unknown said...

Thank you Rory. My observations also. And technique-based, 'fight harder' instruction of girls and women is 99% of most available SD4W.

My observation is that instruction grounded in mental-emotional-psychological reality for women/girls is of little interest to or actively resisted by those attempting SD4W. It often appears that this reality is frustrating or incomprehensible to them. It is certainly ignored.
All your comments are so valid. And almost all those appear to present stranger-based assaults, though that may not be your intention.

But we are overwhelmingly verbally and physically assaulted by those we know and have been trained and socialized to trust (to varying degrees). So the obstacles and barriers we carry in our hearts and minds are even higher and more solid. And these appear to be either invisible to instructors or ignored because those teachers cannot figure out how to help us overcome.

We are socialized to be agreeable, deferential compliant, persuadeable, trusting and supportive - which may _look_ very different in different 'tribes' and social/family groups. Loud, tough, mouthy girls/women are also often deferential, compliant, obedient in ways that are not obvious to outsiders to their communities.

When the day comes that instructors choose to observe and listen to ordinary girls/women describe this 'ordinary' threat, harassment, violence and the socialization that blocks their resistance, and use these insights, SD4W will transform.

You are helping greatly to bring that day about. Please do more.
w/deep appreciation and respect,

Mac said...

Questions well defined by Rory but that I have struggled with for almost 50 years of designing, teaching and training martial arts, SD4W, defensive tactics to professionals and combat tactics is: are women, like men, natural predators? Maybe the better question would be, irrespective of the former question, do they WANT to be?

pax said...

Of course we are.

Our eyes are positioned in our heads in the same orientation as yours.

Anonymous said...

"Our eyes are positioned in our heads in the same orientation as yours."

The better to swing through trees with...

Anonymous said...

What Gillian said is spot on. We're most likely to be assaulted not by a big scary hulking complete stranger, but rather by a relatively "normal"-looking person whom we've at least encountered previously, however briefly. (And even if it is a stranger assault, they may well look "normal".)

For all its relative rareness and violence, in some ways I think the scary stranger assault is easier to fight, because more than any attack, it's got the neon sign flashing that this is a bad guy. At the other end of the spectrum, when the attacker is someone "normal"--especially if someone whom you know--there's a lot more room for doubt to cause hesitation or a reduced response. It's also psychologically harder to make a choice to injure someone you know, even knowing that their chosen conduct fully warrants such a response.

Anonymous said...

Are women natural predators? Do they want to be?

I am only an N of 1, but I grew up in the woods playing with knives and guns and a variety of other weapons, tracking animals and roughhousing and getting hurt. I was a scrappy non-comforming tomboy of a girl raised by scrappy non-comforming people to be the scrappy woman that I am today. For this I am grateful, even though it's probably gotten me into almost as much trouble as it's gotten me out of.

It isn't very useful to make generalizations about an entire gender. Remember there is a selection bias--the women who choose to take women's self defense classes will have certain things in common. Describe your target demographic and you will be able to ask more useful questions about their needs and desires.

Also, what pax said!


Maija said...

I would like a definition of what 'natural predator' means please.

Is it about the ability to kill animals to eat? Farmers' wives have been cutting heads off chickens and slaughtering pigs since time immemorial. Women fish, and they hunt, as do the females of many species.

Perhaps that's not what you mean.

Is it about enjoying killing? Because I'm pretty sure there are no emotions involved in predation apart from 'lunch' ... at least in my terminology.

Is it about the willingness to harm another human? Kill them?

I know there have been really proficient women snipers for decades, and women have been protecting their children just like other species since day one.

So what is the difference? Willingness to go to war? To fight?

Perhaps that has more to do with social mores and opportunity than choice based on desire?

As to women's willingness to monkey dance - Well I would agree that that is not as strong, but you said 'predator' not 'status seeker'.

In the end I think we should start looking at individuals, not groups. I know plenty of men that have no willingness to fight/hunt/kill. In fact can think of nothing worse.

Generalization is anathema to a true meritocracy - Something that I think should be the logical next step for humans. Have the person most suited, and best at the job, do the job.

So, perhaps the real question you are asking is the one that Rory proposed - how to overcome the conditioning and invisible barriers that we, or society, has created that prevent us (especially women) from acting appropriately in ALL situations? Meaning, that when your life is on the line, taking out the threat IS the appropriate thing to do. It's OK. It is worthy. It's natural.

Mac said...

Having been admonished several times for 'generalisations,' I get that point. But to use individual cases to prove overall statuses is the problem in reverse. For sure, the issue must be approached from both directions. We also must define 'natural' vs conditioned predators. My wife makes the case for the latter: "after a time (or single instance) of un-escapable verbal, emotional and/or physical abuse, a person has just had enough, fed up to the core, and will kick your ass." So, here is my definition of a natural predator: 1) a bio-genetic (vs conditioned) mind-set toward violence as problem-solving, 2) eager to kill and willing to die.

Maija said...

Why are 'overall statuses' important?
What do they mean? What does knowing them give you?
Neither seems to have anything to do with an individual meritocracy.

Also, why does 'innate' and 'conditioned', make a difference in the context in which it is important to you? Which I am assuming is teaching women self defense ...?

And as far as 'mind set towards violence as a way to solve problems' ... surely that's just a question of degree? What 'deserves' to be solved by violence? When IS it the only option?

And as far as 'eager to kill and willing to die' - Same question - Is it not just a question of where the line is drawn?

I see no issue in the 'eagerness' being associated with necessity, nor the willingness to die.
Perhaps it's just that women seek 'glory' less than men ....?

Anonymous said...

Willing to die is not a good characteristic for a successful predator.

Anonymous said...

This thread's been an interesting conversation. As a woman who's taught a few WSD classes the expectations and assumptions about women being able to or wanting to etc. work from the predator's instinct, in my experience, is all about the social conditioning. Women who beg off learning SD are sometimes caught between a social rock and survival hard place. Everything she's been taught says she shouldn't/can't. The news tells her she is a walking target. Live in that state of vulnerability consciously? To be blunt-that's brutal.

WSD has to be honest. Real. Address the real threats and the issues that come with them (relationships with the attackers). WSD instructors have to be a walking YOU CAN invitation and be willing to be in the middle of whatever comes up during the course with egos checked at the door.

I agree with some of the other remarks in this thread: women are as naturally hunters/predators as men at a DNA level. Social conditioning with personal life experiences destroys broad stroke generalizations-but we are kinda' stuck with them if we have socially-based dialogues.

The barrier may be less about whether or not she wants to survive and more about whether or not the boardroom of socially controlling rules bouncing around inside her internal narrative will let her anchor into her instincts.

just thoughts anyway...

Scott Park Phillips said...

Marital arts may not have been designed for self-defense. In any event they haven't been taught with that intent for the last 100 years, especially if we think about how people are likely to be attacked. It is a fun project to try and re-discover whatever self-defense may be there. But honestly, martial arts are not a good match for self-defense.
What is? Dance. Dance is the obvious choice, especially for women (but men would likely benefit even more). The methods don't need modification the way they do in martial arts, they are already designed for self-defense. Just add intent. Waltz his face into the wall. Fun.
The other half of self-defense is improvisational theater; developing, changing, taking control of, breaking, dropping, and re-writing social scripts on the spot.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. Sorry, I know it was a typo, but I had to chuckle at "Marital arts may not have been designed for self-defence."

That might explain the failure of my first marriage... :-)