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The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming's all that Dreamers do.
Updated: 2 hours 30 min ago

Teaching on the Fly

Tue, 2014-04-22 22:19
As mentioned, some of the seminars in the UK were shorter than I like, shorter than my standard lesson plans. On arrival, I didn't always know how many people would be there, the backgrounds of the students (how many force professionals versus experienced martial artists versus beginners, etc.) what the facility was like or what equipment was available.  Traveling, I can rarely carry the amount or type of equipment that I like, so I'm dependent on what can be provided.

Teaching on the fly is a challenge, and I enjoy it.

Some tips.

Make a lesson plan. Don't expect anything to go according to the plan, but plan anyway. I don't remember who said it, but "plans are generally useless, planning is essential." It's a good exercise, it allows you to put thoughts in a logical way. Don't fall in love with the plan-- at one venue I had a tight 'essential elements of self-protection' plan but the students wanted restraint & control. Know your stuff well enough to switch and improvise.

Keep the end-user in mind. That's the students. You are teaching not just to the students but for the students. Not for your ego, not for your pocketbook. If they need something different than you planned, their needs trump your preferences, at least in my philosophy.

There are three elements (probably more) that determine what is possible to teach.

#1: The student base. You have to be able to size them up quickly. Watch and listen. I start with the one-step drill because you can see how well they follow instructions, get a good gauge of any training artifacts or bad training habits that are endemic, find the blindspots... and it engages them immediately.

If there is a wide range of students, your drills should be designed such that beginners and advanced practitioners, pros and hobbyists all will get good value. Their goal is to learn and improve. Once you understand the core of your own skills, you can set the game so that each person can learn what they need. That's one of the differences between teaching techniques and principles, or teaching subject matter and students.

#2: The equipment. Some things can't be taught without the proper equipment. You can't do scenarios properly without armor. Some of the academic stuff (like violence dynamics or force law) are damnably difficult without a white board. I wouldn't try teaching ConCom without a projector, too easy to go off on tangents. Power generation requires firm kicking shields and, ideally, telephone books.

That said, there are other things that don't require equipment-- learning to move a body; or leverage; or targeting. There's more than enough information to fill a day even if you don't have the right equipment. Just don't fool yourself into believing that anything is good enough or complete enough. Targeting is cool, but good targeting with poor power generation is likely to fail.

#3: The facility. My least favorite place to play is a nice, clean, flat place with good lighting and padded floors. It's excellent for some things, but difficult for others. It's hard to do environmental fighting in a dojo. You can usually break off small groups to the office and the restroom, so not impossible. But I like having stairs and access to a few parked cars that are already scuffed and dented as well. In general, you want to do your rolling on mats, but a couple of times a year (or at my seminars) I want people rolling on asphalt, concrete or hardwood floors. I want them to remember that in the real world, stuff is dirty and it hurts.

You can teach body mechanics almost anywhere, but the combination of exploiting momentum and "gifts"is hard to teach in a pristine, flat, uncluttered world.

You also have to evaluate things for safety. Boots are good. If you wear boots you should practice in boots. Mats are good, they make learning to take falls easier. Mats and boots together can result in some really horrific knee and leg injuries. That's bad.

Alone Time

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:22

This is alone time. It might not seem like it to you. It’s crowded. It’s loud.The table across from me are a bunch of overweight guys with glasses talking about being great fighters and women. A very few couples, I don’t think this is a date kind of place. I’m sitting in a corner, typing away, sipping something local and watching.It’s alone time. No one knows me, no one has any reason to watch me. Typing on a laptop is unusual but non-threatening. To the few who notice at all, I’m a nondescript guy in a corner, typing. Probably some kind of struggling attorney, maybe a journalist. Those that peg the accent will take me as a tourist at first, but other things won’t add up and, again, the very few that think of me at all will assume I’m here on business.I’m an extreme introvert. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like people. Not saying I do like people, just saying introvert means something else.It means I find them exhausting.But not this. Right here, right now, I am separate and watching, even in a crowd. I’m clocking potential threats and potential prey, noting patterns of movement and interaction. It’s the most restful time I’ve had in two weeks.I love what I do, don’t get me wrong. If I didn’t love teaching, I would do something else. But three weeks, constantly on stage, constantly a center of attention... it drains me.And so I steal an hour, maybe ninety minutes to be gloriously alone in a crowd. It will refresh me, and I will hit the stage again tomorrow with renewed vigor, fresh.
Written a few days ago, in a pub. Very refreshing and the last of the class is winding down. It's been intense, good, powerful. Tomorrow night, a train to Scotland. Friends and fine whisky. Then a long plane ride and a few hours in the arms of my one true love.

Easy Teaching is not Easy Learning

Sun, 2014-04-13 09:39
Going to be writing about teaching for a few posts, I suspect.

Traveling seminars are usually weekends, and it makes sense to batch them, like three UK weekends over 16 days (plus travel time, and maybe a day to reset the internal clock). But that leaves the weekdays as big sinks of unused time. Garry and Dan decided to remedy that this trip. Dan scheduled things at St. Andrew's and it seems some college students can handle an all-day seminar during regular class times (imagine my old man voice saying, "Kids these days!") Not a problem.

Garry's were evening classes, so working people could make them. Three hour slots in London, Gate's Head, Wirral, Doncaster and four hours (later today) in Coventry.

Most of my lesson plans center around eight hours. It's the minimum to get a taste of the pieces, in my opinion. Almost everything in those eight hours is centered on understanding the question (What will I face? What are the elements of attack?) and gathering information-- how to see and evaluate not only what the threat is doing but your own trained mechanical inefficiencies. A second eight hours can go into the mechanics of efficient brawling. But at three hours something must be left out, and it must be made clear how incomplete the training is AND that can be hard when the attendees have never had that type of information in that volume before. Things can feel more complete than they can possibly actually be.

Anyway, how to train is often on my mind. But given a new problem, you learn new things.

One thought right away, and this feeds back to my secret intention with the Joint Locks video:
The best way for teaching is almost never the best way for learning.

It's an endemic belief in bureaucracies that training must be consistent and measurable. It is far more important to be able to objectively evaluate a student in a skillset than whether that skillset works. That's how bureaucracies measure 'fair' and bedamned to those who wind up bleeding.

It's not just soulless organizations, either. It's a staple of martial arts instruction as well. Any kind of force skill will be applied in a chaotic situation. It will be messy. Everything affects every other thing. Your ability to play in the margins, to use the chaos and mess is a big part of your survival skill. But it's hard to train, and for the ego-bound instructors, the prospective of losing to a student (and if you teach them to think sideways, you will lose sometimes) is a huge threat. It's hard to teach, so many instructors teach the easy stuff, not the good stuff.

And the way of teaching. The easy way of teaching is to break things down into manageable chunks. If I can pick out the eight steps to that wristlock, I can teach those eight steps. I can tell whether the student is doing each of those eight steps correctly. I can correct the student, which makes me feel like a teacher. And in the end, the student only has to remember those eight steps (and we're all good at remembering sequences, right?) and apply them and everything will be fine...

But it won't, because the student will need to access the memory part of the brain, which is slow and nearly useless in a force incident. The student will hesitate because that's what being constantly corrected makes people do. The ritual of the eight steps, consciously or not, sets an expectation for a very specific set-up that the bad guy may not be willing to provide. And it's not eight steps to success but eight chances for failure, since if any of the steps fail, they all do.

Some of the keys, and I'm a long way from finding them all:

  • Getting the information in the right level of detail to actually use. Nothing to memorize, but not so vague as to be useless
  • Match the skill to the correct part of the brain. Fighting has to be noncognitive, so there's no point in getting intellectual about it. Get intellectual about perfecting your training, though.
  • Teaching in the right modality. And testing, too. Fighting is inherently kinesthetic, not visual. We knock people down, we don't impress people unconscious.
  • Make it fun. Force is an inherently unfun subject, but all animals learn through play, everyone moves more efficiently when relaxed, and people learn better and to a deeper level of the brain when they enjoy the process.
  • Play. Related to above, but there is no way to script a complex answer to an unknown problem. The only way to get good at any complex skill intended for a chaotic environment is to play. And there's a lot in this, because the game has to be very well designed to teach the right things, and the student must be carefully prepped not to read too much into it.
  • Whatever you teach must agree with the student's world. The wording on this is tough. Generally, assume that your students are intelligent adults with their own experience of the world. So if you say or teach something that contradicts their knowledge of the world, they will either doubt the rest of what you say (which is bad) or they will reject their own experience (which is much worse.)
Enough for now. Time to go to Coventry.

Not on Hold, Just... Busy

Mon, 2014-04-07 20:35
It's hard to write when you are either working or trying to sleep.
This is my life now (and this is not a complaint, but an explanation and apology to the regular readers):

Up relatively late. Most times I have to catch a plane, the plane seems to leave at 0600, which means I have to be at the airport between 0400-0430, which means awake at 0300 at the latest. So the late start is a blessing...

But after a delay for mechanical problems which misses a connection  and another delay on the made-up connection I find myself at the destination somewhere around 25 hours awake and eight hours off from my biological clock... screw it, too tired to do the math. Commit to staying awake until at least 2100 local time so that I don't screw up my sleep schedule too bad. In order to stay awake, no writing or reading. I'd fall asleep. Walk. See a few friends. Walk. Have a wee dram. Walk. Keep moving.

Back to the flat around 2100, as planned. To sleep. Snap awake after three hours. (The one actual side-effect of my history is that, until very recently, I couldn't sleep more than four hours at a time.) Up, stretch, read, sudoku. After two hours I can sleep. Sleep until almost noon. Cool.

Wander the town (I love walking In Edinburgh, but also Montreal, Athens, SF, many others) with a friend, see more friends, eat and back to the flat to sleep. Snap awake after four hours. Still exhausted but only doze fitfully after that.

Get up, get coffee, try to find wifi and contact home. No-go. Find food. Catch ride to venue. Teach for 8+ hours. Talk and socialize and answer questions for another two. Dinner with the group. Back to flat. Go for another long walk. Realize that on a Sunday, breakfast, wifi and coffee will be harder to find. Hit a grocery store so at least breakfast won't be a problem in the morning.

Get up. Ride was barely on time yesterday, so go down right on time only to find that he felt guilty about not being early and has been waiting. To venue. Eight hours of teaching, plus talks,  dinner, etc. Things wind up so late that, with a friendly native guide, I have to work out the bus system to get back to the flat.  Next morning is free, but have to teach evening classes, and in that morning break, finally get a chance to blog.

Classes. Up late answering questions. Up early either to teach or to travel. Repeat.

This is not a complaint. Raf gathered a fantastic group at Edinburgh. Dan and Maya let me teach and connect with some of the next generation at St. Andrew's. The last three days in Swindon have been incredibly high energy, with plenty of bruises and learning for all.  I finally got to meet Stuart Williams and the lovely Louise in person. A gorgeous woman in the Edinburgh airport (they do tastings at the Duty Free there) gave me a dram of Glenlivet Distiller's Reserve. Ruins and good food and great conversation... Going forward, Garry has set up a slate of people to meet. Hoping to see Iain and Al again and maybe meet Geoff.

It's an awesome life, but sometimes a bit too busy for writing.

E-Burgh AAR

Mon, 2014-03-31 11:06
Last classes of the Edinburgh leg of the UK tour will be tonight. Arrest and control and cell extractions for a small group of officers from another country, then an evening of infighting. Then off to St Andrews, which would be a big thing if I golfed, or so I'm told. But that will be a fun group, too. Then Swindon, a bunch of fairly short courses, and the scenario training in Sheffield.

Then not-quite-home. Seattle.

Every trip to Edinburgh has been a blast. Beautiful city, good for wandering. The classes are always a mix-- excellent martial artists and beginners; security and enforcement professionals and civilians; and almost always some academics. Everyone thinks, everyone sweats. Most people get bruises (everybody on the second hands-on day). And it always refines my teaching.


Introductory ConCom is tight. Massive information, but easily internalized. One weakness in myself. Probably a complex of old concussions and sleep deprivation (or maybe just because there are so many nuances) I always remember a few details after the class that could have made it better.
Two weaknesses/opportunities in the class itself:
1) There should be different versions and different teachers for different audiences. The jail and agency stories work, the principles are universal, but having an experienced business person telling business stories that illustrate the same points would work better for a business audience.
2) I should have a printed handbook to go with the class. Ideally just copies of the ConCom manual, which I currently can't do if I accept my publisher's offer for print rights.

Crisis Communication with EDPs. Good information, well received, but like anything complex and real, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. First responders will arrive at the scene with minimal information, so they need on-the-spot intelligence gathering and threat assessment skills, whereas the EDP's family member or custodian will have lots of information and direct experience, but probably not the tools or resources. And whether there is a duty to act affects everything as well as the goal and available time. So, first improvement was to address these issues up front. Next will be to expand the power point either for specialized audiences or to address specifically how these factors affect options and priorities. Also, the PowerPoint slides are too wordy and sometimes repetitive. I teach this less often so I haven't built memory triggers into the slides.

Introduction to Violence. Sounds strange, but one advantage of teaching in a foreign country (or to groups from multiple countries) is that I don't know the laws. Thus I can cut the Force Law portion down to almost nothing-- affirmative defense, elements of articulation. Which gives more time for other stuff. This was a one-day. The two-day gives me a lot more time flexibility. Getting people up to environmental fighting in one day without injuries is always challenging, and I prefer environmentals after some work on the ground and with momentum and walls. But it's fun and it works. The two biggest battles are:
1) Getting people to understand that fighting harder is not always fighting better. The serious injury rate in martial arts classes, even full-contact classes, is quite low. It's the only way to stay in business. So if school 'A' goes slow and light and one person in a hundred gets a broken bone or dislocated joint or serious concussion, and school 'B' goes ten times as hard and only one person in a hundred gets a broken bone or dislocated joint or serious concussion, then school 'A' is ten times as efficient as school 'B'.  It's just math. You do have to go fast and hard. People who only play light get a very specific set of bad habits. But people who only play hard get a different set of bad habits.
2) The stupid performance artifact belief that good motion means lots of motion. If you do some eight move spinning cartwheel of doom and KJ puts you down with a right cross, KJ is the better martial artist. KJ is the better fighter. Sometimes there is a two inch move with your knee or just a hip bump that will do more than your prettiest technique, but people usually don't see the opportunity and when it is pointed out and often say it doesn't feel right because it is 'too easy.'

People who use this stuff try to make it simpler. People who only train in it have a tendency to make it more complicated.

Out of the Box

Thu, 2014-03-13 22:29
Because my lovely wife worked on the cover and interior design, I got to read Kris and Lawrence's new book, Sensei, Mentor, Teacher, Coach, before it became available. It's a good book. Really good. And important. And I think it will be an uphill battle to make it successful.

Why? The material is original, important, comprehensive. The writing is good, like I expect from these two. Both of the authors are well known, best-sellers in the martial arts genre. On paper,  S-M-T-C should take off. But it will be a struggle.

Largely because, somewhere in our heads, we put people into boxes. Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder? Karate guys. Martial arts authors. The people who look for their names are not looking for books on leadership. The people looking for books on leadership are not looking for those names. Even most of their fans don't know that before Kris decided to see how deeply he could simplify his life he was a professional consultant who worked on national political campaigns. Or that Lawrence, in his day job, sometimes herds $100 million+ contracts through a major bureaucracy.

These karate guys know leadership. And management. And the difference. They know that teaching is guiding growth through leadership. "Among the thousands of books on this subject I am amazed that Wilder and Kane have not only found a new approach, but one that makes a real difference."   That's what some guy named Anthony Wood wrote in the introduction. Some marine colonel-- who led the evacuation of Saigon. Just some guy.

It's a marketing puzzle. And I'm in a similar place with ConCom. Groundbreaking stuff, but it's not some former jailguard thug talking about violence and bad people. People who want communications books prefer to see a PhD or MSW after the name.

In the last month, all three of us have shattered our molds, and done some of our best work, in my opinion. But I think it's going to take something creative to get traction, to get attention in the right places. Stuff to think about.

24 Hours

Thu, 2014-03-13 00:26
This post isn't about violence or self-defense, just purely about how cool the world is.
On the second of March we had a weather phenomenon called a "silver thaw." It has nothing to do with thawing, so don't ask me about the name. I'm sure it happens in other places, but I've only seen it here, in the gorge.  The rain hits, and it comes down as rain but the ground is cold and every single surface gets covered with ice. The roads are a sheath of ice. Every blade of grass is outlined in ice like a crystal.  It's hell to drive in, but it is gorgeous.
  The rail on the deck (this is what the roads were like):

The plants looked like this:

And the view from the deck was:Twenty-four hours later it was 51 degrees fahrenheit and I was out in my shirt sleeves, digging in the garden.  The view from the deck:
Life is change. It's a big world and full of many things. Not just in space, but also in time.

Building a House

Wed, 2014-03-05 17:04
Conversation the other day about training paradigms. The person was advocating that things are learned best starting with basic technique, then building on that into a system. As near as I can remember one quote, "The first day, sensei showed us a punch. It wasn't quite right, but he told us to practice and pay attention to form and we would do it right when we needed it. It couldn't be right, of course, because if you punch with full power, you'll stress your elbows."

If you heard something like this (as I did from my first karate sensei) I want you to put on your big boy hat and think about, because almost every single element of that thought is palpably false.

Never practice doing things "not quite right." Not quite right is wrong, and if you do enough reps at doing things wrong, you will do things wrong in a fight. We all know this.  The best training in the world doesn't always come out, especially in your first fights-- but if your training does come out, you don't want it to be wrong.

There is no universe where doing things wrong long enough will magically morph into doing things right.

Correct form and not going full power are all artifacts of punching air. You need to punch a body. A moving body. You don't have to worry about your elbows. Wrists maybe, and shoulders if you have some of the snap power generations down... thing is, the feedback for really hitting a body is kinesthetic, not visual. Who cares if rotten food is pretty on the plate?

He tried to explain again with the house metaphor. You have to build a foundation. Then the walls, then the roof. Add the windows and doors and plumbing and electrical system. Only then will you have a house. The metaphore is that you practice your techniques with special attention to form (which, IMO, is confusing the paint job with the foundation) and then you build up through combinations to tactics to strategy and only then, when it is all complete, can you fight with it.

If this was the pattern of actual teaching, there might be some validity to the metaphor. But what you will see most often is the equivalent of handing someone a hammer and showing them how to swing it. After months or years of that they might be allowed to pound actual nails into random pieces of lumber. And they are told that enough reps of that combined with with making forts under the table with blankets (sparring) makes a complete house.

The principles-based approach is to understand what a house is. List what you need to understand (structural stability, insulation, air flow, heating and safety, light) to build one appropriate for your needs (emergency shelter to high rise). And then you play and experiment with the principles and the material you have on hand or can acquire.

None of us learned to talk the way we learned martial arts. We learned to talk through immersion. We played and sang and told stories and listened. We experimented with language-- The two-year-old's "No" stage is finding out how much he or she can control the world. We learned to speak with just a third of the principles-based model and we're all pretty good at it.

We learned to write from the foundational model, and after a minimum of twelve years of formal instruction under professional teachers, a lot of people still suck at it. And even the ones who don't suck have immense insecurities. In my opinion, most of the bad writing comes from the insecurities, by the way. Trying to be "a Writer" people become stilted and artificial trying to please some long-dead third grade teacher.

One of the commenters long ago (no way I could find the post before coffee, sorry) pointed out that all animals learn through play, and only humans were stupid enough to try to to learning into a job.  I'll go further and say that the primary effect of that form of teaching is to make the students easy to control. It serves no other function efficiently.

For Love

Sun, 2014-03-02 22:49
People are afraid of violence. And some of them make the choice to train to protect themselves from violence. But training isn't free. Not financially, not physically, not emotionally.

How much do you have in your wallet or purse right now?  Credit cards and stuff, too. If you are afraid of getting mugged, that is what you stand to lose. If your training cost $100 a month and you train for a year, that's $1200. Five years is $6000. Does spending that much to protect what you have in your wallet make economic sense?

I've been at the martial arts game since 1981. That will be thirty-three years this coming September. And right at twenty years of actual application-- two years bouncing in a casino (probably only a dozen times it went hand to hand, we were pretty professional) 17 years in Corrections (somewhere in the 500-700 range for actual force incidents serious enough to require reports) and a year in Iraq (only one hand to hand encounter). Almost all of the serious injuries, the ones one pays for as they get older, came from training-- the knee, elbow and all but one of the shoulder dislocations, the broken fingers, most of the concussions.

There is a physical cost to serious training, and the training that has the best chance of working when you need it plays on those edges. Without training at that intensity, the real encounters could have been much more debilitating. But I was going into special circumstances, where violence was a near-inevitability. I think the cost was worth it.

But for most people a decade of serious training will do more damage than most single encounters. And many, if not most people will not ever have a serious encounter.

We train to go home to our families, but I've spent at least 11,000 hours away from my family just for training. Not counting shifts or the time overseas or the traveling training now. That's over 458 full days. Over a year and three months. If it was really about my family, wouldn't the time have been better spent with the people I love?

Is training bad math?

No. Training for fear is bad math. For that matter, doing anything out of fear is almost always stupid in the long run.

This why you train, or at least why you should train: Because you love it. I don't care what art you study, as long as you enjoy it. Anything that makes it a joy to move. Any class that you look forward to each day. I have seen people who sucked at supremely efficient arts and people who excelled at arts that didn't fit my needs. But excelling is its own reward.

Spending $1200 a year to save the $100 dollars in your wallet doesn't make any sense. But spending $1200 a year is less than a daily $5 mocha...and if you spend it doing things you enjoy, getting stronger, quicker and more flexible, getting smarter, and smacking around friends-- what's better than that? What better investment in yourself and your time can you make?

Injuries are more problematic, but you can play hard and safely. Most of the time. And there are lessons in pain and adapting to injury that pay off in other areas of your life. You are surrounded by people who have spent their lives avoiding discomfort. To face discomfort, and even embrace it, is a superpower. To learn that you can adapt even when your body is messed up puts many things into a perspective: You will adapt. You will win. That's who you are. That's what you do. And learning that is kind of cool.

11000 hours away from the people I love would be a lot. The thing was, the time was spent with people I love. The camaraderie and sheer fun of throwing friends through the air is pretty deep bonding. There is a reason why people like KJ and Steve say, "My brother in the arts."

Friends, self-improvement, toughening and fun. Those are some damn good reasons.

Train. Everybody should train in something physical. But never out of fear. Train for love.

Nerd Rehabilitation

Sat, 2014-03-01 20:36
If you haven't gone through the Conflict Communications program or read the book, some of the language in here may be hard to follow. The concepts in ConCom were heavily influenced by interaction with criminals because both Marc and I have a lot more experience with criminals than we do with, say, office workers. It also means that most of the examples in the book are from jail. People have already suggested that there should be a business version, and Doc Coray is working on a medical version of the presentation. The principles cross over, but everyone learns better if they can identify with the specific examples.

But one of the possibilities that really intrigues me is nerd rehabilitation.
In case it's not clear, I don't think like most people. No way to tell how much is hard wired and how much is (lack of) early socialization. I was the quiet kid who preferred to run off to the desert alone and climb rocks and crawl through caves. Maybe nature. I was also raised seven miles from the nearest town with no electricity or running water and graduated with a senior class of six people. So when I went to college and actually met large groups of people I was an alien... maybe nature, maybe nurture, but I got along with books way better than I did with people.

I found that people seemed to have no idea what they really thought (measuring their words against their actions) that they were completely controlled by imaginary emotional mine fields. That everyone else had a secret understanding of what one could say and what one couldn't. Silly me, I thought everyone always wanted the truth, otherwise they wouldn't have asked.

I learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut in most situations. And with your mouth closed and your eyes and ears open, you learn stuff. And if you are curious and your brain is wired a little differently, you will make connections. You will get to understand things consciously that the others seem to have been born with. Like the smallest guy on the judo team, if you work hard and smart, you can do with skill what the others do with talent.

This process heavily informed ConCom. Since I wasn't a natural at interacting, I had to work to become conscious. Technical superiority to offset natural inferiority.

In ConCom terms, nerds (I mean socially awkward intelligent people) have a weak or deficient Monkey brain. The limbic system that controls/is emotionality and tribal dynamics doesn't work as well. And in a lot of ways, that's a superpower. When there is a concrete problem, the neocortex is good at solving that... but when the Monkey brain starts worrying about who will get the credit for solving the problem, the neo-cortex shuts down. A weak Monkey keeps the neocortex on the job. Superpower.

But a weak Monkey also means that you don't have an instinctive understanding of how to get along. You assume that being right is far more important than presentation-- because it should be. Obviously. But in a world where most people have very strong Monkey brains, being obviously right is not a superpower, because almost always, the limbic system trumps rationality. And, by the way, everyone rationalizes their limbic responses, so pointing it out doesn't help.
So if you are right, but misread someone's status; or you are right but break one of the tribal protocols in how you present the fact; or if you are right but on a subject where your sub-tribe is 'poaching' (like a tactical guy solving a budget problem) it doesn't matter how right you are. Neurotypicals (non-nerds for our purposes) will have a limbic reaction. And the rational part of their brains will not be able to engage until the tribal part has been mollified.

ConCom makes the underlying tribal processes visible so that they can be understood and even manipulated. It's about making the normally unconscious part of communication more conscious. And if it's more conscious, it becomes a trainable skill. And I think nerds, the ones who are already self-aware enough to understand there are things they don't get, will have a huge edge in applying the skills consciously.


Fri, 2014-02-28 16:36
Not a zombie post. Just amazed at the sheer amount of not-thinking that happens. How often people go on scripts. How often they use words that do not mean what they believe. How often people see what they were told to see instead of what is right in front of their eyes. And the power of the defense mechanisms that kick in to protect the not-thinking.

And there's no way to know when I am doing it. Sometimes you can see other people's blindspots, but not your own. I may be even more reflexive and non-thinking than the people around me, and frankly, that thought scares me. Like living in the zombie apocalypse but never figuring out that you are one of the zombies.

Efficiency. Efficiency is getting the ideal result with the least effort in the shortest time. So inefficiency is any wasted motion. Ideal result, not maximum result. If I choose to parry a strike, I could push it well away from my center line, but anything past the edge of my skin is unnecessary (wasted motion) and usually leaves a bigger opening for the bad guy. I want to parry so small that the threat isn't even sure he has missed until it is too late to recover.

So, what got me thinking: Simultaneous block and strike came up again. Senior practitioner, good skills. Body blading, evasion, rolling shoulder were all part of his strike. If his strike landed first, it changed my geometry such that, in most cases, my strike will miss it's target.

The ideal goal of a block or parry is not to be hit (there's more that you can do, I'm keeping it simple). If the 'strike' part of simultaneous block and strike took care of that goal, as it almost always will, the block does nothing that is necessary. It is wasted motion. It is inefficient. Follow the logic: if X accomplishes nothing, X is wasted motion. Wasted motion pretty much defines inefficiency.

He could follow the logic chain all the way up to admitting it was wasted motion, but he still insisted it was efficient.

Human brains do this. You are told by the right person that something is efficient (or beautiful or just or...) the word matches to that object and you either ignore what the word means or do some mental gymnastics to keep that noun/adjective pair alive. Martial arts gives us examples, but politics is rife with it-- if you believe in the cause you refuse to see the damage (the working people at a local employee owned store have a cut in take home pay of almost 40%  to -involuntarily- bring their insurance in line with the ACA.)

We call things efficient (or whatever) which are not. And we see the inefficiency, the waste, sometimes the damage, right in front of our eyes and refuse to acknowledge it. The defense mechanisms kick in and waste or even injury get redefined, or blame gets shifted.

Pick up a copy of Heuer's "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" for the best short list of the mechanisms of blindspots I've found so far.

Sisyphus Triumphant

Thu, 2014-02-27 17:59
You know how sometimes things come together all at once? Yeah, like that. Last two weeks, every spare minute and all writing energy has gone elsewhere and, last night, K and I uploaded two new books. Two.

The Chiron Training Journal is available on CreateSpace. It should be available on Amazon in a day or two.

ConCom got uploaded last night and is available in the Amazon Kindle store. That project has been four years in the making. For at least ninety days it will only be available on Kindle. I have to make a decision about whether to publish it in other formats myself, or contract to YMAA.

Time to take a little break. Nah. I don't remember how. But it might be wise to spend the next two days doing some internal recon and setting a course for the next stage of life.

The Progression

Mon, 2014-02-10 08:40
Recently contacted by an acquaintance about how to attract and retain women to a self-defense studio. His assertion was that the women who left wanted it to be fun, but self-defense was a grim subject, inherently un-fun.

Maybe. But humans are mammals, and all mammals learn best through play. And the math of self-defense training is bad. Spending 1000 hours with multiple minor injuries in a self-defense class  to save a night in a hospital is bad math, as is spending $1200 a year on the off chance you can save the $100 in your wallet from a mugger. Training out of fear is always stupid. That might be a blog post later. If you are going to train, train because you love the training.

Setting that aside. For deep self-defense training, there is a progression. First, you must make an emotionally safe place to practice physically dangerous things. And then you must make a physically safe place to do emotionally dangerous things.

When a student comes to you for true self-defense, there may be a history of victimization or abuse. There may be an expectation that the person is easy to victimize because they are physically weak or socially awkward. I'm not talking about the martial athlete dabbling in self-defense or "reality based" training. I'm talking about the people who fit victim profiles. The people who actually need this stuff. The population for whom these skills are not a hobby, but a matter of survival.

In the first stage you must make an emotionally safe place to practice physically dangerous skills. What does that mean? That the student will never be ridiculed or belittled or, most importantly, exploited. You will tell them to get better instead of haranguing them for their failures. They will be bruised and sweaty and bleed, but they will never be embarrassed. Losing is learning, it is not humiliation. (Unless the winner and the teacher are dicks.) And exploiting-- your students are not in your dating pool. No exceptions.

You stay at this stage until the students are formidable. What does formidable mean? It means that they can hurt you. On the level of physical skills, you should be able to win (you are the instructor, after all) but not easily, not without risking serious injury. More importantly, formidability is an emotional understanding. When your students know that they, absolutely, have the physical skills to destroy another human.

This is a qualitative change. In a very real sense the student you have brought to this stage is not the same person who started studying with you.

If the student is ready, and agrees, the next phase is to create a physically safe place to do emotionally dangerous things. You will push buttons. You will re-create personal incidents of victimization. You will summon adrenaline and fear and shame and angst. And you will make it as safe as possible for you, because this is no longer a victim, but a person of formidable skill. And they will learn how many of their inhibitions are imaginary, and how to function under adrenaline, and how to fight someone who knows how to control their emotional state.

Two Projects

Sat, 2014-02-08 17:48
Coming up for air. And this is basically a CCA (Crass Commercial Announcement)

Two projects are nearing fruition. The ConCom Manual is in final proofread, the cover is done and the kindle e-book will be available very shortly. There's a whole bunch of writerly stuff involved in the  "only kindle for now" decision that I can't disclose yet. Yes, I want a paper copy out and to have it available in more platforms, but that will take longer and may be under a regular publisher.

K did the cover and I like it:

The second project is probably the laziest writing possible, but it's been fun. It's mostly a blank book, designed as a training diary. Some advice and insights, a place to document training and to analyze and connect what you know. It also includes my current lists of Building Blocks, Principles and Concepts.
Mentioned those here. The deal at the time was 'you show me yours and I'll show you mine.' Now you can get the lists without making one first-- though I highly suggest you make your own list. Cross pollinating ideas works best if you have solid ideas to cross.

(Edit) And here's the cover. I didn't know it was finished:

The Third Sacred Question

Fri, 2014-01-31 02:34
A little over a year ago, I had two identified.

There are three books that I think every adolescent (or adult who missed them) must read to function intelligently in modern society. They are the Three Critical Life Books listed here:

"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill suffers from an unfortunate title, is extremely dated... but it lays many things out in cold and usable terms. Hill was given an assignment, by one of the richest and most powerful men of his time, to find out what successful people had in common.  What the difference was between success and failure. He came through in spades and every person, every last person who has gotten off their asses and followed his advice, has become a standard deviation better. At least.

"The Richest Man in Babylon" by George Clason also suffers from its period. But it explains how money and wealth work in a usable way. It is an unparalleled pardigm-shifter and will help anyone, even people like me, raised to be poor and understand the world the way poor people are taught to understand it, to compete in the real world. And, if you read it right, to compete without jealousy.

"How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life" by Alan Lakein is the time management book on which every other time management book seems to be based. Others may have played with the nuances, but Lakein is the one who laid out the priniciples. If you are tired of drifting through life and want to take the tiller, this is the book.

The first time I ever heard the phrase "Sacred Question" was in a Tom Brown course. It was a question of exceptional power. A question that, if you asked it, could change defeat into victory and forever make you grow as a human being: "What is the lesson here?"

I love grappling, and one thing I tell students is that it is impossible to lose a grappling match. If you tap your opponent, you have won. And if your opponent taps you, you have learned. And learning in a class is more valuable than winning. What have you learned, or "What is the lesson here?' turns defeat into growth.

The second sacred question I discovered was critical when dealing with criminals. When I was a rookie, a crusty old sergeant told me, "If one of these guys walks up and says 'good morning' you ask yourself, 'what does he want?'". That sounds cynical, but on a deep and useful level, if you can figure out the true motivation, if you can discern what the real problem is (as opposed to the professed problem) you have a super power. So the second sacred question I discovered (but the one I think is most important and therefor the first) is: "What is the goal here?" If I truly know my goal and the opponent's goal (and most people do NOT known their true goal) it is better than Sun Tzu's advice to know yourself and your enemy. It is a game-changer like no other.

Anyway, I've been re-reading Lakein, and he put forward the Lakein Question: "What is the best use of my time right now?" Time is a limited resource. In a very real sense it is all that we truly have and we have a very limited amount. This simple question, applied consistently and maybe constantly, has incredible power to change your life. To change every aspect of your life.

I nominate Lakein's Question as the Third Sacred Question.

Edit. I can't believe I typo'ed the title.

More Roy

Mon, 2014-01-27 18:42
A couple of posts ago, I was thinking out loud about Roy Bedard's contention that people's fascination with violence and killing indicated that there was no internal block to killing inside one's own species. I disagree. Not about whether an internal block does or doesn't exist (more on that later) but about whether fantasy is any indication at all of willingness.

It was brain food, and, as usual, everyone responded to the question they heard.
But Lloyd's response got a few days of thinking.

Lloyd said...
Ill just leave this here.

Would you be willing to kill a goat at a slaughterhouse?

Would you be willing to kill a goat on a farm?

Would you be willing to kill a goat in the wild?

Would you be willing to kill someones pet cat/dog?

Would you be willing to kill a person?

The inhibition cant be completely about not killing your own species. Everyone ive ever asked with only one exception wont kill the pet, either.

I put down Lucky two years ago. He was our obsessively loving, epileptic, black cat. Kidney failure. We wanted his last days to be good, loving, with us. And when the pain got bad I put him down. What a euphemism. I continued to pet him and while he purred at the contact and sometimes mewled with pain I put the barrel of a .22 revolver under his throat, angled for the brainstem and killed him. It was over in an instant.

So I've been willing, but not eager.

But never ever once have I fantasized about putting down a pet. And there are people who daydream about hunting, but I don't recall, when living on the farm, ever fantasizing about butchering day. With the possible exception of when we culled chickens, because that was headshots only on moving targets with strict instructions not to shoot hens or the designated roosters... challenge.

And that's a thing, because K brought up fantasy and fairy tales as a kind of visualization, but in actual experience those are very different things in my head. You can daydream about hunting big game, and that's fantasy. When it was time to put down Lucky I rehearsed every step in my head because I didn't want any mistakes. Fully visualized, but not fantasy.

There are a couple of reasons people assume that there is a block against killing within your own species. First of all, Konrad Lorenz. It's been close to thirty years since I read "On Aggression" but it's pretty certain that most 'battles' within a species are ritualized and do minimal damage.  They can look fierce, but generally both bears walk away. But it's not just about not killing, because if a new male lion takes over a pride it will kill the cubs sired by the previous boss.

Then there's "On Killing." Be careful with Grossman's stuff. If you read his sources, they frequently don't say quite what made it into his books. And if you've ever actually fired a musket, there's a much more logical explanation for the multi-loads than reluctance to fire.

But some of the best evidence for the block comes from the people who freeze. If you debrief enough force encounters you will hear time and again, "I knew exactly what I needed to do, but for some reason, I couldn't make myself move." You will hear that from highly trained and motivated people. I have a much smaller number of debriefs for weapons, but sometimes you will get an experienced hand-to-hand fighter who doesn't go for the gun even when it is absolutely necessary.

So, question number one: Is it a block or a freeze? And is there really a difference?

Next part, and this goes to Erik's point about bell curves. There aren't a lot of things in humans where everybody is either one thing or the other. Almost everything exists on a continuum. And some people simply have less internal blocks to hurting or killing humans than others. Nature or nurture? What if it's all three?
I've heard through the grapevine that there's a guy doing research on a particular group of traits that appear in certain organizations. Evidently, people who gravitate to certain jobs and do well tend to have unusual bone and muscle density; faster healing rates; and respond to an adrenaline dump without a crash afterwards. (I'd like to know about flexibility, ETOH resistance and a few other traits I've noticed but...) That would be a case for a pretty strong genetic component.

Or it could be pure socialization. One of the most chilling things about Rwanda, if Hatzfeld is correct (he reports a prison of 7000 who participated in the genocide with less than a dozen mental health issues in the whole prison) is the lack of PTSD in the killers. Evidently, if you are raised with a strong tribal identity (where no one outside your tribe is a 'real' person) you can kill with all the emotional; baggage of a farmer slaughtering lambs.
Reverse that, and it means that people can be socialized so deeply that they can't make themselves do a 'wrong' thing even when they desperately need to do so to survive. And by wrong thing, I'm not necessarily talking something as extreme as killing, but people facing victimization who refuse to be rude. To slam a door in a strangers face or yell for help and make a scene.
And there's a subtle socialization, too. As much as everyone says how important it is to stand up for people and not let others be bullied and... I can tell you from personal experience that every time I have done so, I've been punished. Someone I cared about would make a point that doing so was stupid, or look at you differently. It was usually a boss. Like the bus driver fired for intervening in a domestic violence situation. That doesn't mean don't stop doing it, but you have to be very robust against peer pressure to keep standing up.

The third way, of course, is that somewhere in this is a mix. Some people are more resistant to peer pressure and socialization. Some respond to reward better than punishment and vise-versa. But I believe you could take one of those genetically predisposed to be comfortable with violence and raise them in an environment where it simple never worked and they would adapt. And I think a certain percentage of even the most dependent 'pleaser personality' genes raised in a dog-eat-dog environment would rise to the challenge. Because, above all, humans adapt. It's what we do.

To sum up, is there a block? For most normally socialized people, I think it's a good bet. How the definition of people is internalized, though, is a social process. And that changes those lines. And some people have more control over their internal states (not just emotion, but actual thought process) and they will tend to adapt faster, including breaking rules. And some people have never internalized society's rules but just follow them out of either convenience or courtesy.

But I still have no idea what to do with Roy's point about excessive fantasy.

3 Tropes

Wed, 2014-01-22 17:24
This will be a rant about the state of my country/world. Feel free to walk away.
According to Nielsen, the average US citizen watches 34 hours of television a week. I have read that most Americans aren't readers, but all of my friends are obsessive readers. Yet, within that crowd, I'm the odd man out because I read almost exclusively non-fiction. The obsessive readers I know are reading fiction.

Subtract sleep, commute time, dead time... some people have more interaction with imaginary worlds than they do with the real world. Almost everyone has more intense interactions with imaginary worlds than with their daily grind. And as such, consciously or not, people are influenced to believe in how the world works by imaginary, scripted drama.

So three tropes, brought to you by Hollywood and popular fiction, that I see becoming accepted wisdom in the real world. Perilously.

The Cult of the Passionate Amateur. The new rookie comes on the team and he's just so much better and smarter than the grizzled veterans that they become resentful. Or Castle hires a mercenary to find his daughter and says, "I'm coming with you." Or the plot line of "True Grit." In entertainment, being a passionate amateur is a superpower. In real life...we'll get to that.

Arguably, there are good reasons for it in Hollywood. Working with professionals is high-speed and there are a lot of communication shortcuts. It is a good idea to have a naive character. For plot logic, it gives the experienced people an excuse to explain things to the audience by pretending to explain to the amateur. But, since the amateur is the one the audience identifies with, if you want the audience to give you or your advertisers money, you are probably going to wind up making the amateur the star. The hero.

It probably doesn't hurt that most of the writers, themselves, are passionate amateurs with no direct experience and damn little skill in what they are writing about.

How does it work in the real world? Let me ask you this. You're going in for back surgery. Do you want the surgeon who has done seven thousand similar surgeries or the kid fresh out of school who has never actually done a surgery but is really into it? You tell me.

Amateurs helping with hostage rescue are about as successful as amateur surgeons.

Even worse-- passion. People do not think clearly under emotional stress. How smart are you when you're in love? Or angry? Passion is worse (look at marriages destroyed for momentary passion.) "Chief, he killed my brother! You can't take me off this case!" Are you out of your friggin' mind? Not only could any good defense attorney destroy the prosecution on that relationship alone, but people obsessed with revenge are not thinking rationally. And rational thinking solves problems. Not passion.

Effect in the world? Emotion seems to be considered to have validity equal to rationality. Feelings equal or trump facts. Irrational fears trump science. And, the people doing it, fear-mongeriong  by spreading bullshit, thinks it's okay. If the cause is worthy, it is worth lying about. And they are spreading the lies to people who react to the emotion and don't fact check.

The Virtue of the Unprepared. I blame MacGyver for this one (and a hat tip to Kathy Jackson of the Cornered Cat for pointing this out.) MacGyver was an eighties TV character who did dangerous jobs but didn't like guns so with his trusty swiss army knife would do some kind of field-expedient explosion or something in every show to save the day using household chemicals and bits of trash...

Get this. He had a dangerous job. Where people would try to kill him and blow him up. And because he didn't like guns he purposely denied himself the right tools. This is not genius, this is blatant stupidity. And somehow it became a virtue. I'm all for thinking out of the box, and creativity, and having a basic knowledge of simple chemistry and engineering in case you need to get rid of a stain or pull a car out of a mudhole and you don't have the right equipment...

But to deliberately deny yourself the right equipment? In the real world, that's just stupid. And, through MacGyver (he's the most obvious, but in every episode of the A-team I saw they got captured or trapped without their toys and had to make things) stupidity has become a virtue.

Let me put it in surgical terms again. Who do you want to operate on your back? The guy with the right equipment, or the one who says, "I don't like knives. What we'll do, see, is I'll improvise a scalpel from a tin can..."

Dreamers. This really contributed to me tossing fiction many years back.  The trope runs like this (it was endemic in fantasy fiction, I hope that has changed):
The sweet, gentle dreamer child is always running off to read books and be alone and daydream about making the world a better place. Her mean, narrow-minded, rough and calloused family are always trying to stop her from day dreaming. If the family isn't out fishing or farming, they are trying to force her to become just like them. Then, one day, a magical creature comes by and recognizes the deep wonderfulness of the dreaming child and takes her away to be trained as a special person, elevated well above her parents where she can become a hero...

Leaving aside all the family issues in this, WTF? You have a family living a hard life-- and if you've ever subsistence farmed, it's a metricfuckton of manual labor. I can only imagine that fishing from small boats would be worse--hard, cold, wet and dangerous. And they have one kid who is just pure lazy. Living off the labor of others, contributing nothing unless forced to, ranting that being forced to contribute to keeping herself and her family fed is a horrible injustice and beneath her. Crap, am I talking about the fictional trope or modern protesters?

If humanity is a body, the dreamers are the fat cells. They are the soft underbelly of society. The ones the shark can eat first before it tears into something useful. Maybe good for emergency food supply.

This is not a rant against dreaming. Dream big, go for it. But dreaming without sweating is worthless. Dreams and sweat combined? Cool. The Dream is damned and dreamer too if dreaming's all that dreamers do. To quote myself.

But, somewhere, somehow, the people raised with this trope not only believe that fantasy is just as effective as labor in making people's lives better. They honestly believe it is morally superior. That doing nothing works. That making unexecuted plans is just as much a contribution (and without the possibility of error, that's a nice bonus) as doing something. "Visualize World Peace" How's that working for you?

Surgery again. Do you want the lady who has put in the years and hours of medical school and residency? Or the one who has been daydreaming about how cool it would be to do the exact same thing without pain? Especially if some magical animal told her she's special?

My Happy Place

Tue, 2014-01-21 19:52
In a good place.
A little sore, tweaked and various joints have been stressed. Just right. Two days of of talk, but also rolling on concrete and punching people in armor and playing with blades of various lengths and configurations.  The knee is healing well enough. Better than I expected. Trouble with joints is that you can't truly test their limits because you find the breaking point by, well, breaking them.

Working short power strikes from the clinch with a big, fit, Muay Thai guy. Close contact flow with a good Silat player (who also cooked curry. Nice.)  I think most of the tweaks come from the footwork with the long blades.

Fencing (this wasn't collegiate or European fencing, it's just the word I like to use for bladed dueling with safe weapons) is a microcosm of many things. Not everything. There are limits on people applying Musashi to business, for instance, and a lot of dueling strategy and tactics are counter-productive or suicidal for ambushes. But fencing reflects a lot of being human.

It's both extremely physical and extremely mental. I think it was Aldo Nadi who said a prima donna ballerina didn't have the flexibility to be a world-class fencer. And (Olympic) fencing is the fastest sport in the world. It requires immense explosive speed. I measured once at the end of practice in college and my right thigh was two inches bigger around than my left.

And mental, too. I was a better technical fencer left handed. By better, I mean that there were people I could rarely score on right handed that I could take left handed. (And, yes, before the fencing snobs start talking about the natural left hand advantage, let it go. That's not what was going on.)

Right handed, I relied on my speed and reflexes. I was fast, but reflexes are predictable and, as Marc says, speed and strength are false gods. Left handed, I didn't trust my speed, precision or reflexes. So I fenced smart. And there were certain people I could beat with my brain that I couldn't beat with talent.

The sword player was really good (Hi, Maija!) and most of my big take-aways were from working with her:
-Getting in for the kill is not enough, you have to get back out before you get killed right back. Doublekill is a bad definition of a win.

-Just because a feint works, doesn't mean it works. I was using a head feint to the knee shot, but her natural parry for the head shot put her blade in the perfect position to slash my arm as I dropped for the knee. Just because something worked (the feint did draw the block) doesn't mean it worked to my advantage.

-Great distancing saves enormous energy. If you can read when you are out of range, you don't need to defend and won't fall for feints. The finer you can read this, the less energy you waste. (I've known this for years, and I think it is the one skill that helped me hold my own.)

- This is a hard one to put into words. If you aren't careful you can come up with solutions that only work if the problem wasn't the problem. Grrrr. Specific example. I have long arms, am fairly fast and most people don't think about their legs, so one of my favorite targets in any weapon class that allows it, is the lead knee. Maija is also fast, sneaky and very aware of her legs, so I'd get the cut sometimes but almost always at the cost of a slash to my extended arm, back or head. I couldn't get out fast enough. After a little thought, I would feint to the lead knee and slash up to catch/cut her counter slash first. And it worked, or at least it felt like it worked...until I realized (and there's really no 'I' in this, we were both brainstorming constantly) that it wasn't solving the problem. The problem was how to cut the lead knee without getting countered. The thing that worked involved NOT cutting the knee. It was a tactic, but it wasn't a solution.

Also (out of blades and into infighting, now) there are some things that have to be taught by feel and you have to learn to feel them. One of the big guys was putting me on my base in a clinch, especially from behind. His grip and weight were making my structure stronger. A slight hand movement immobilizes the spine and robs the core of power, but a profound difference in feel is a very small difference by sight.

Wiring differences-- and this is something I'd like to actually experiment on. We had a very effective technique for taking down (without injuring) a threat who was in a cell doorway, ready for us. Part of the technique is in the approach. For some people. For a lot, there is a full beat hesitation between the approach and the technique. That can be deadly. The experiment would be to see, first, if some people do or do not have the hesitation the first time. Second, to see if the hesitation disappears with practice, experience, both or is robust. Hmmm.

Infighting by feel; time; and efficient motion. This could probably be a book. Time is something I've been wanting to write about and got closer to the words this weekend. One of the things with the one-step is that almost every martial artist I see has offense, defense and footwork in three separate boxes in their head. So they have a tendency to block, move and strike. In order. Taking three beats to do what they should do with one. Infighting can bring this to another depth with a single motion defending, unbalancing, collapsing structure and possibly doing two different types of damage to different places.

That probably seems like a lot, but it isn't. Sometimes in the tangle you can turn and drop your shoulder in a way that locks his elbow and forces him towards the ground, the turn also puts your knee into the back of his and your near hand can do anything from grab testicles to an inner elbow smash into the cervical spine. And that's not even using your off hand. And the motion is about as complicated as shrugging.

But to get here, you need to be able to feel targets and structure and motion. And (this is huge, and goes back to sword people who aren't aware of their legs) knowing your own body well enough to not forget that your fist is over his liver while you are twisting into his knee. And your other hand is coiled to clip him under the ear. One body twist powering three different strikes but all still a single motion. (My benchmark, BTW: Good jujutsu means the person can hurt you three different ways with a single motion.)

Good weekend.

Talkin' with Roy

Wed, 2014-01-15 01:20
Got a chance to talk to Roy Bedard, yesterday. He's a good man, good thinker. Doing a hellacious amount of research to apply sports psychology to understanding violent encounters. He doesn't take things on faith and he makes me think. Things I very much value in my friends. Just wish we saw each other more than every other year or so.

He made a statement that got me thinking. And there may not be an answer to this. "I don't believe there is a psychological block against killing."

The psychological block against killing within your own species probably came from Konrad Lorenz's work ("On Aggression") and other experts (maybe that should be 'experts') have run with it. It's become accepted wisdom in this field. Roy spent a long time as a cop and has been working as an expert witnesses in a good number of self-defense cases, so he deals with an unusual number of people who have killed. As always, there's sampling error, but his reasoning:

"If there was a psychological block, it wouldn't be such an attractive thought." We've all spent enough time with martial artists who fantasize about levels of violence they would be shattered to actually use. We've seen epic violence as a mainstay of cinema and fiction forever. If this was a truly horrible thought it seems odd to think about it so much...

Not sure I agree. Actually, I'm fairly sure I don't agree, but if good people only said stuff I agreed with it wouldn't make me think, right?

My data from working the jail is that some people run to a fight and some don't. Most freeze, a few run away. But we never found anything that could predict who would do what in their first fight. No level or type of training (one guy with extensive full contact experience always froze; the biggest coward I ever worked with was a former marine; and one of our most fearless and aggressive was an untrained single mom who only took the job for the security.)

In the early '90s (and I don't think this has been done since, which is kind of sad) the Oregonian (our local paper) sent a survey to all sworn members of the Portland Police Bureau. 238 responded. One of the questions was "Over the last two years, how many times do you believe you could have shot someone with full justification, but chose not to?" Only 14% said zero. Crunching the numbers, these officers would have been justified to take a life a total of 476 times (and only 28% of the officers responded to the questionnaire, so that number might be tripled). Yet over those same years, only 22 officers discharged their firearms in the line of duty. Even without the tripling, over 95% of the time, the officers bet their lives on NOT shooting.

That might be apples and oranges, maybe, because there is no way of knowing whether the decision not to fire was based on an inborn reluctance, or fear of punishment (Arwohl and Christensen go heavily into what thoughts go through an officers mind in a deadly force encounter, and far too often they were distracted by thoughts of Internal Affairs and litigation) or how many rationally decided to gamble on another way because they believed it would work.

I bounced this off K. (Here's some advice, gentleman. Marry someone who is smarter than you.) K thinks that a lot of our fascinations, from some of the really dark stuff in fairy tales (if you've only seen the Disney versions, you need to read some of the old stuff) to movies, are specific mechanisms to prepare to deal with things we don't want to do. Fantasizing is a close cousin of visualization. And we may need a lot of visualization to break our social boundaries.

Maybe. Don't take any of this as answers.  It's just brain food. Think about it. Going to pick up Roy for dinner in an hour or so. The conversation will continue.


Mon, 2014-01-13 03:09
The ConCom manual is finished as of this morning. Not finished, technically. Still need to flesh out the bibliography, check some facts and see what note I left myself, do the internal links for the e-book... but the rewrite is done.

Oh, and hire my lovely wife to do the cover and the interior design. She's good at that. I get the special friend rate, but even without that she's affordable: Wyrd Goat Press Cover Art

Changing the title to: ConCom, the Next Generation of Conscious Communication.

Coming up for air. And feeling a little pumped.