I see him almost everyday. He's waiting to catch the school bus, standing near the corner not far from the Waffle House. He's probably, what, 7 or 8 years old? Reminds me of me at that age. Just a little chunky. As mine did for me, his Mom probably buys his blue jeans in 'husky' size.
He is totally oblivious to the world around him. Cars and trucks whiz past him, only feet from the curb where he stands. The bus won't be here for another couple of minutes. No worries. He has all the time he needs.
This is war, all-out chaos. The hordes of ninjas offer no respite. No quarter is asked, none is given.
They always come at him the same way. First with stealth, hiding behind trees, standing behind a telephone pole, or squatting in the shadows of a mail box. They creep up, real quiet like. They're good at their job. They get maybe 3 or 4 feet away before he becomes aware of their presence. Usually it's the slight whirring sound of a shuriken. Okay, maybe it's luck, perhaps it's just battle-hardened instinct honed from the daily stress of war, but his lunch box saves him and catches the spinning blade of death.
The realization that he has had a close brush with death awakens his fighting instinct, and he springs into frenzied action.
He is a blur. His lethal hands and deadly feet move at blinding speed. The first 3 attackers fall quickly, but there are more...there are always more. Move! his brain commands, and move he does! He leaps, he turns, he twists, slips, ducks and spins.
By now the ground is littered with their bodies, the sidewalk is slick with their blood. He must move carefully now. They never send in the best fighters first. These are mere cannon fodder, sent in to weaken him for the true terror that is to come.
But from which direction will the real danger arrive? He looks around, but the shadows are deceptive. He is tired from the combat, and he could easily succumb to panic at this point. The body count is impressive for one so young, but the fear he has held at bay desperately wants to be set free.
Like a zen master he calms himself. Becomes still. Takes a deep breath and...get this...actually closes his eyes and gathers his energy in what can only be described as quiet meditation. He is unexpectedly tranquil, like the calm eye in the middle of a chaotic hurricane.
Suddenly, and without telegraphing his movements, he engages the final elite squad. These are seasoned pros he realizes quickly, and his actions up to now must shift to overdrive if he expects to live to see another sunset.
He leaps the bench and darts around the fire hydrant with a grace that dancers only dream of. The power of his blows is tangible, and many of the attackers go down with only one strike...a shuto to the temple, a spinning heel kick to the wind pipe.
This is no game. They all fall before him.
Finally the head ninja, maybe the sensei of the others, and obviously a skilled and respected veteran, does not bother to hide. He is immense. The boy steps back and has to look up to see into the dull, lifeless, shark-like eyes. The boy is scared. But he does not run.
He takes another step back and another, and turns to get on the bus.
As he takes his seat he looks out the window. In his hand he holds the shuriken he has removed from his lunch box. He brings it up, defiantly waves it in the beast's face, and grins. He continues to watch as the bus pulls away, the giant warrior diminishing, fading from sight.
His day will be long and full of other challenges. He must regain his strength and rest tonight.
For tomorrow they will gather, and they will not be satisfied until he is vanquished.
One day, way back in 1987, I was walking through a local restaurant in Madison, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, when I recognized martial arts legend Leo Gaje sitting at a table eating breakfast. I stopped at his table, paid my respect, and he graciously asked me to join him. He told me that he and his family had recently moved to town, and after a brief conversation he asked if I would like to drop by his house sometime for a little one-on-one training.
A few days later I took him up on his offer. He was so generous, showing me all kinds of incredible techniques, both with a stick and a knife. He also had an empty-hand component to his system which was very effective.
In one of the training sessions he took me out to his backyard and handed me a thick stick made out of durable hard wood. He instructed me to hit a tree with forehands and backhands, essentially just big figure 8's.
"How many times?" I asked.
"100 repetitions," he answered, adding "and be sure to hit it hard each time."
"What do I do when I've finished 100 reps?" I asked.
"Switch to your left hand," he replied.
"And after that?"
"Switch back to your right hand. I'll be back to check on you in awhile."
About an hour later he did check back. I think he was surprised that I was still going at it. My arms and shoulders were exhausted, and my hands already had blisters. If I thought it was over, I was mistaken, because now he wanted me to continue hitting the tree but with different combinations. It was tough, but it was great training. It also explained why he was able to hit so durn hard!
In too many of the classes and seminars I've attended over the years, we've mostly just hit the air. Punching and kicking the air over and over, just snapping our techniques out towards imaginary opponents.
I usually didn't like that approach.
My best teachers always made sure we hit something--a tree, a tire, a heavy bag, speed bags, double-end bags, focus mitts, and especially another person wearing protective gear.
I don't think you can get a feel for a technique unless you hit something...hit something hard...really REALLY HARD. In the best training you actually should hit something that's trying to hit you back.
Learning to hit, learning to move, trying to avoid getting hurt by someone else, all of this is such an important aspect
of combat, and yet it's not always done. I know of some schools that don't allow contact at all. Or if it's allowed, it must be light contact only.
In one of my first seminars with legendary instructor Hock Hochheim he told the class that they needed to pick up their sticks every now and then and go and hit something and hit it hard. Hock understands this concept all too well, and at his seminars he encourages people to suit up so they can train hard. I once was on the receiving end of one of Hock's leg kicks, not even one of his hard kicks mind you. The pain was intense, and completely took over my thinking. Imagine, I thought to myself, just imagine what that would feel like in a real fight if he were to do a full-contact, adrenalized version!
I had the incredible opportunity to be on the receiving end of some of Remy Presas' stick strikes, an unforgettable experience. Remy wanted me to block his strike, and he made sure to warn me to hold onto the stick firmly. When he hit it, the shock wave traveled up through my hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder. I'm pretty sure he loosened up some of my fillings. But feeling this impact made me aware that in a real fight it's full-on, hard contact, and if you don't have a good grip you're gonna lose the stick. Then you'd really be screwed.
When my buddies Richard and JT and I trained we almost always added in some full-contact training. Whenever we fought with sticks we'd wear fencing headgear, lacrosse gloves, and any extra padding we could scrounge, beg, borrow or confiscate. We had some shin guards we got from a baseball catcher, some football padding, and some knee and elbow pads. It was very tough training, and it was nothing to get bruised and banged up, but we understood stick fighting to be much much more than just going through fancy flourishes and twirling. The guys we knew who didn't practice full-contact? We derisively referred to them as 'baton twirlers.'
We used the heavy bag, and we really loved kicking the Muay Thai pads. Sometimes a workout holding the pads for a skilled kicker was in itself a helluva workout. You'd be forced to breath correctly to absorb the impact, which translated well into full-contact sparring.
I'm not suggesting that ALL training should be full-on full-contact all the time. That would be unproductive and unsafe.
But if one's training is mostly no contact or very light contact, the real impact of a real punch or kick is going to be a shock.
How can you expect to hit hard in a fight if you've never hit something or someone hard in training?
Now, if you'll excuse me, in the words of the immortal THING from the Fantastic Four, "It's clobberin' time!"
A talented photographer sees the way a camera sees. For whatever reason, the eye and mind grasp what a thing will look like cropped to picture size, can see not just the trees but the light-and-shadow play in the shape of the trees. If you have a little talent, see a little differently, you can take some good pictures.
A skilled photographer knows his equipment. He knows what to do with all the little dials and how to sometimes 'trick' the camera beyond the camera's usual abilities. Further, a skilled photographer has been taught much of what a talented photographer does instinctively. But knowing does not always equate with understanding, and an untalented but skilled photographer can get technically perfect but completely boring pictures.
I don't mean experience here as someone who has taken a lot of pictures. The third way to get good, unique pictures is to go to unique places and take them. Take a shot of something as incredible as the Earthrise over the Moon's horizon and talent or skill do not touch the fact that you were there. A technically crappy, poorly composed picture of Bigfoot would still be a picture of Bigfoot.
This goes for all art, for athletics and it absolutely goes for conflict. Maybe it goes for everything.
It's not an either/or. With a few exceptions it is not difficult to be talented, to work on skills and to go to extraordinary places. They compound. But it's not always easy.
Simple fact is that most talented people don't get very good. My experience is that the kid who gets 'A++' and effusive complements in his grade school art classes never works that hard to get really good. He is already good enough. I know very few big strong athletic martial artists who bothered to become superb. With an edge in size and strength, they tend to get good enough to dominate the people they know and then get lazy. It usually takes an extraordinary drive, often the iconic smaller/weaker/older technician who can beat the talented individual that shows them there is more.
This is a very human thing. It's a lot of work to get better, and most people stop when they are good enough. So talent, without extraordinary discipline or an extraordinary challenge, can become a trap.
The people without great talent but with desire tend to become the technicians. When others are more talented, you must be more skillful to win. Most of the really superb martial artists and fighters I've known have been runts with a drive to win. Small and weak, they couldn't afford to be merely good. They had to be fantastic to hold their own.
And there are two things that happen here. One is that much of 'talent' falls under the heading of attributes. Like strength, speed, endurance and coordination. Diligent training increases all of those. There are talents that will be backfilled, for want of a better word. The second is that with the right kind of training, your senses start to do what a talented person's always did. A judo prodigy knows the split second when his opponent is about to be off balance. A non-prodigy will learn that over time.
(And it is really infuriating to have something you have spent a decade perfecting being dismissed as, "Well, of course you can do that. You're a natural.")
There is a lot here. Physically untalented people tend to become superb technicians, if they work at it. Mentally untalented people who work equally well tend to become superb teachers. They've received so many explanations and worked out so many ways to grasp things that they can often communicate things they may not be able to do.
But, there is a solid difference between being untalented and ... I need a word. If you have taught for any length of time you know there are certain people that don't get certain things. I'm going to own it and put it down as, "my skill as a teacher is inadequate," but that's not what I feel deep down. I take responsibility because that's the only part of the equation I can affect. And I keep trying. But it seems there are certain people that can't see what is right in front of their eyes. Can't change patterns of movement or behavior. It's rarely physical, it's some kind of mental block. But they actively fight their own learning, even while putting in hours and hours.
And experience. Go to the cool places and take the cool pictures. Go to the dark places and learn about the dark side. It certainly helps to have talent and skill. That's how you make it out. But there is more than that and it compounds. The experience will teach you, very fast and in big block letters, what details are important. And you'll pick up a crude version of what a talented person naturally sees. He sees composition and shadow instead of 'pretty flower.' The experienced person learns a cruder, starker, but equivalent lesson, something on the order of, "I got too close."
It's hard to learn the kind of lessons from experience that you can learn from skill building or training. Ideally, what you are taught is the accumulated experience of hundreds of experienced people. There is no way you would have the time (or the luck) to survive that much experience.
But experience filters your training like nothing else. The devil is in the details but it is experience that tells you which details are important. That's the nature of the way humans learn and teach. They add stuff. They complicate things. They make things special. When you move too far away from experience and focus solely on training it becomes hard to tell which of the added information is important, what is really relevant.
Experience also happens at higher stakes and in compressed time. It not just winnows your training but forges your training and any talent that you have. Fast, dangerous situations force you to be equally fast and extremely precise. Your trained skills become sharper, more adaptable and more reliable. Your talent becomes reliable. And it can become one of the incentives to keep a talented person training.
Resource Predator – yup, you are nothing but a resource to the criminal. How does that distinction effect the way you are dealt with by a criminal, and how you should deal with this form of crime. You ever think of yourself as a, “Walking ATM.” as Marc calls you, or are you a sentient being with inherent rights that need to be protected? Well, yes, and no…
I'll use adrenaline throughout this as easy shorthand, but know that the SSR (Survival Stress Response) is caused by a slew of hormones and neurotransmitters, not adrenaline all by its lonesome.
There are lots of symptoms of adrenaline-- breathing changes, pulse rate, pupils-- that I don't care about because you can't see them. Signs are distinguished from symptoms in that signs are what you can see.
So common adrenaline signs:
Gross motor activity. Under an adrenaline dump you want to move. Pace. Flex. It seems like as the adrenaline increases both the activity increases (the pacing becomes faster) and seems to concentrate in the big muscle groups-- legs and shoulders.
Clumsiness. Big muscle groups up, small muscle groups down. Shaking, dropping things.
Voice gets higher pitched. Loud is one thing, but I listen for the squeak. Couple of reasons. The funny one is that every team leader so far has had his voice crack the first time he gave the ask-advise-order-check. That reads as nervous to the threat, and we almost always had to fight. Second reason, high pitched voices are one of the signs of fear and fear, like any emotion, is contagious. If one person squeaks or screams, nearby people are more likely to get stupid. Third reason, if the threat hears his own voice break, he may feel compelled to fight to prove that he is not afraid.
Swallowing and licking lips. Or drinking a lot of water if available. Adrenaline burns up a lot of water and makes you very thirsty. Side note: Tardive dyskinesia is one of the side effects of long-term use of psych meds. Street people call it the 'thorazine twitch.' Tardive dyskinesia also involves a lot of lip-licking with darting tongue movements but will also have sharp twitches and (usually) hard blinking.
Rhythmic movement. Almost every person I've seen under an adrenaline dump does something rhythmic. They tap their fingers (especially if they are trying to hide the fear/anger.) Or they bounce on their toes. Some hum. Not usually whistling, the mouth is too dry to whistle.
Color change. Getting red is part of the threat display. These guys don't tend to bother me. They might get stupid and become dangerous, but that's not the sign I'm looking for. When a threat goes pale, things are about to step off. The paleness, of course, comes from peripheral vasoconstriction. the body is trying to make sure that if the saber-toothed tiger gets an arm or a leg you won't bleed too much. Think of sudden pallor as the body clearing the deck for action. Things are imminent.
Danger happens at the intersection of adrenaline and purpose. A drowning man will be adrenalized and have the purpose of breathing, which makes you look like a flotation device. A mugger needs money for drugs and will get his adrenaline into the zone to do the crime.
Some notes, before we go on.
1) Fear, anger and love. I'm a big believer in the James-Lange theory of emotion. The theory states that first there is an event, then there is a hormone dump and THEN you ascribe an emotion to it. They noticed that there's not really a huge difference in the signs and symptoms of intense emotional states. If your mouth is dry and your palms are sweating and your knees are weak and your breathing is rapid and shallow... are you afraid? Or in love?
You get those symptoms when you see a bear, you call it fear. See someone attractive, the exact same symptoms are called 'falling in love.'
So, especially for this subject matter, fear and anger are different labels for the same chemical state. The labels, however, can be powerful motivators. If you call it fear, your instinct may be to curl up in a fetal position. You call it anger and you may fight. There is huge power in consciously labeling. More power, IMO, in NOT labeling and just using the chemicals... but I don't think that's something you can do the first several times. Maybe.
2) Whistling and lighting cigarettes. There are some iconic things in old movies. Lighting a cigarette will show any tremor in your hands, and it is one of the things the heroes and some of the bad guys used to do to show how calm and in control they were. In real life, back when bars allowed smoking, many bouncers practiced so that they could calmly light a cigarette under an adrenaline dump. People subconsciously got it. Calm can be very intimidating in the right circumstances. Same with whistling. I don't suggest whistling around threats, especially mentals, since any high-pitched sound tends to increase adrenaline, but it might help calm you.
Most of the adrenaline control methods taught require a certain amount of time. They work better for people responding to a violent situation than people who are attacked. There are a few tricks, but this is about reading a threat, not controlling yourself.
Someone engaged in social violence generally won't try to hide his adrenaline. It's part of the show. The two groups that will try to hide it are criminals and professionals.
Professionals (like bouncers lighting cigarettes mentioned above) tend to have elaborately relaxed body language. Their job is to defuse the situation if at all possible, so they will close distance and get in position while giving relaxed and non-threatening body language. They will be focused on the threat, however. If you see someone who should be showing the signs and isn't and they are focused, assume you have a professional. (As opposed to someone who should be adrenalized and is oblivious, in which case you have your basic nitwit.)
Criminals have to close the distance and set you at your ease. They have to appear NOT to be focused on you and they want to control the adrenaline. Many will engage in self-calming behavior. When your kids are hurt or afraid you pick them up and hug them, right? You basically pet them like small animals. Self-calming is doing that solo. Rubbing the face or neck are the most common.
This probably goes at the end, but danger is in the matrix. When you see someone rubbing his neck and not making direct eye contact but looking at you it's a sign he is adrenalized and trying to control it. If you've known him for awhile (the social aspect of the matrix) he's probably working up his nerve to ask for a date. If he's a stranger? Hmmm. If he is a stranger standing at an abnormal range, with asocial feet alignment and no witnesses? Big red flag.
There is one more professional reaction, but not necessarily criminal. One of the things with criminals is that they can time when to attack, so they can control their own adrenaline. They can get themselves excited (with visualization, ritual or self-talk) to raise their adrenaline and they can get the adrenaline under control by waiting a little longer, breathing, or other self-calming behaviors.
Victims don't get that choice. When the threat arises, they get an adrenaline dump. If YOU are a force professional (LEO, soldier, bouncer) your job will be to accost people. From their point of view, you are the threat. You will use the same techniques bad guys use to control your own adrenaline (and, hopefully, more consciously, trained and taught and more effectively.) But the people you confront will not have that option. They will get an adrenaline dump.
If they go pale, things are on the edge of going bad.
If, however, the subject goes pale and relaxes and his eyes unfocus, you may be in for a very bad day. Most people tense and shrink up when the adrenaline hits hard. If you see the relax and the thousand yard stare you have stumbled on someone with extensive experience with adrenaline. He knows how to use every last drop of it. If you see this you may well be in for the fight of your life.
On the good side, if you see this the subject is still thinking clearly enough you can reason. You can rarely do that with the ones who go white and tense up.
Someone asked how to develop mental toughness. The answer is easy: Do things you don't like to do. Things that scare you or disgust you or chores that you dread. At the same time, cut out things you do enjoy if they serve no purpose. What have your hours or maybe years of TV watching done for your life? No excuses.
That was my answer and the guy kind of chuckled and said, "No, seriously. How do you develop mental toughness?"
Another wants to develop fighting skills without the ick factor of touching people.
Years ago (and the day I decided I really liked Steve Perry) we were on an Orycon panel on the future of pharmaceuticals (and I have NO IDEA how we wound up on that panel). Steve asked the audience; "If there was a pill that would increase your energy, make you more attractive to members of the opposite sex, make you better at sex, make you live longer, lose weight and even make you smarter, would you take it?"
The audience clapped and smiled.
"Would you pay a hundred bucks a month for it?"
"Hell yeah!" the audience cheered.
"Well," said Steve, "It's called 'eat right and exercise' and I can tell just by looking that most of you aren't doing it."
People want things to be easy. They want something for nothing. I get that. But there are some subjects where it is not possible. Your body is not designed to improve under conditions of comfort. It improves under stress. With stress, muscles grow. Without stress, muscles atrophy. You don't get better at running by sitting.
You can get to a certain level of knowledge without pain or exhaustion. You can get to a certain level of skill. But you can't get good. You can convince yourself you're good. As long as you hang with other people who have avoided the same things you have, you can be comparatively good. But you can't get good. Not at fighting and not at competition level anything.
It's gonna hurt. It has to. People want a magical method where they can learn to deal with shock, surprise, pain and exhaustion without feeling shock, surprise, pain and exhaustion. That's not the way the world works, kids.
And I'm not just talking about the swimming analogy-- you know, where you compare learning about any fighting system without fighting as learning to swim without water. That's not what I'm talking about this time.
You can't get good inside your comfort zone. You want to get stronger? Your muscles have to hurt. Want to get flexible? Don't overdo it but you have to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Want to get anaerobically endurant? You have to push until you are sucking wind. Maybe puking.
Want to be better at a motion than the other guy? Then you either practice more than him or more mindfully or, ideally, both.
In "Campfire Tales from Hell" Dan Gilardi did a little article called, "Want to Learn how to Win? Learn How to Lose." Essence is, unless you go into challenges that will kick your ass you will never rise to the level of skill or 'mental toughness' or conditioning required to meet that level of challenge.
When in doubt, push.
Some of our training-- with the team, with Dave, with Wolfgang-- literally scared people. People would walk in and walk out after watching one class. Administrators would say, "Is that really necessary?" For their jobs the answer was "No." For our jobs, yeah, it was necessary. It never stops hurting, you just stop caring. Some would tell us it was unnecessary. A few openly called it abuse. (But these are the people that think that sore muscles are a punishment.)
I'm worried, frankly. When people start having a knee-jerk reaction that pain is bad and discomfort is bad it seems like a short step before they start classifying Olympic level training (as an example) as child abuse or torture.
Caveat here, before I close: Train hard, don't train stupid. Injuries make you less survivable. And there is no gain in emotionally abusing a student. They have to feel emotionally safe in order to learn about physical danger. For that matter, if you feel safe emotionally abusing your self-defense students, you aren't teaching them right.
That said, all valuable training happens outside the comfort zone. Physically, mentally, emotionally you have to push the envelope. It's gotta hurt.
A Breath of Fresh AirA PARABLE
Frank Johnson was a celebrity. Maybe not as big a celebrity as a Hollywood actor or a sports legend, but in the world of CPR he was a star, and he had few equals. Frank was a renowned CPR master, (or as he preferred to be called, MAASSTER), who owned several CPR academies and toured the world teaching his unique style.
Frank had learned his skills as a young man in the late 60s, when he had signed on as a life guard one summer at the local community pool. His Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) instructor was a harsh task master, and it was not uncommon for the students to be ordered into the pool to swim extra laps for messing up the sequence or for not performing up to the instructor's exacting standards.
He was lucky...he never had to actually use his CPR skills that summer. Mostly Frank just stood at poolside, blowing his whistle when the horseplay became too intense or when kids wouldn't stop running at the edge of the pool. But he was vigilant, always looking for signs of distress, carefully watching for the telltale symptoms of cardiac arrest.
Frank knew that if someone stopped breathing he only had seconds to respond, so he decided to excel at his CPR skills. On many evenings when the other lifeguards took off for the local pizza parlor, Frank stayed behind practicing over and over again the vital steps of CPR on the training dummies, whom he had affectionately named Sonny and Cher after the stars of his favorite prime time TV show.
He visited the library to do additional research, and he even applied for a job at the local hospital so he could be around doctors and nurses, hopefully to gain just a little more knowledge. Mostly he just emptied bed pans or pushed the patients around in their wheelchairs, but he picked up a tip here, a trick there.
Frank thought of himself as a Maass-man, named after Dr. Friedrich Maass, purportedly the first person to have performed documented chest compression on a human, way back in 1891. Although there had been a number of advancements in the procedure since that time, Frank thought that the original way was the superior way.
One day, in the mid 70s, Frank was given an incredible opportunity, one which would ultimately change his life. Because of Frank's knowledge, dedication and persistence, he was chosen to be the new community CPR instructor. The position involved teaching CPR not only to up and coming lifeguards, but also to soldiers at the local Army Reserve battalion, Boy Scouts, and civilians.
Frank approached his new responsibilities with the utmost gravitas. He decided that each person who trained in these life-saving skills should wear the same hospital orderly uniform he had worn so many summers before. He expected his student's uniforms to be clean and pressed when they showed up for class, and he began offering patches to reflect individual accomplishments. If a particular student, for instance, received a perfect score in performing CPR, he or she would be awarded the coveted bellows patch.
Frank's classes became quite popular, and people all over town knew Frank by name. When he went to the grocery or the barber shop, people would call him by his new nickname, "The Exhaler".
It wasn't long before Frank moved up in the CPR field, first teaching at the State level, and eventually taking on District and Regional responsibilities. Ultimately thousands and thousands of people learned their skills as a result of Frank's tireless work.
Whenever new technology came along, such as Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs, Frank balked. The old ways, the Maass technique, were, in his mind, quite sufficient. They had worked for almost 100 years. No need to introduce new technology, he thought, so he resigned from his position and began the first commercial CPR academy in the United States.
The first academy was small, just a storefront location near the downtown square. He started off with a few of the former lifeguards, some retired Reservists, and one or two orderlies from the county hospital, but soon the classes grew. Frank adhered to the old ways, and he became a stickler for perfection. He expected each trainee to call him "MAASSTER." The class did not use training dummies, there just wasn't enough money, and instead they were taught to visualize the victim. They learned to shout, "YOU, CALL FOR AN AMBULANCE" in their loudest voice. In unison they knelt down, began their chest compression exercises on imaginary victims, and counted out each one in a rhythmic cadence.
When one student suggested adding music to the class, Frank expelled him from the academy. Larry Thompson began his own local CPR academy, the MBA (Modern Breathing Academy), and his modern approach became Frank's primary competition for several years. More on him later.
Even with his emphasis on the past, Frank thought of himself as an open-minded instructor. The ultra-white uniforms slowly began to be replaced with pastel-colored hospital scrubs and EMT-type utility uniforms. He opened up a very successful kids' class, the "Elite Exhalers", and, surprisingly, he even began to allow Safar/Elam mouth-to-mouth techniques to be added to the curriculum.
Frank appeared on several community access TV programs, featuring demonstrations by his most skillful and accomplished students. In unison they would go through the motions of CPR, with and without a human 'victim'. Usually Frank would appear towards the end, sometimes doing a unique, dramatic and exhilarating multi-person CPR routine he had developed.
As Frank's fame spread, Larry Thompson struggled. He felt that his new, modern, reality-based approach would catch on, but it seemed that people preferred the old ways. Larry introduced Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification at his academy, and stayed current on the newest methods, but Frank's school always had the largest attendance.
Larry developed the newest, cutting edge breakthrough in CPR when he developed Extreme Exhalation Gatherings (EEG). These competitions brought in CPR experts from around the country, and eventually from around the globe. There were several events: Group unison CPR, Military CPR where participants competed in battle gear, and, of course, individual CPR demonstrations, often set to electronic music.
Larry's programs took off, and slowly and surely Frank's school was seen as outdated and impractical. Frank fought back. He decided to once again introduce dummies into the program, and he even reluctantly allowed some technology, but he tightly held on to tradition with few compromises with modernity.
This approach ultimately prevailed, and Larry had to rely on teaching his method out of his garage.
Frank took over the EEG competitions, and his students regularly come home with the bulk of the trophies.
Students liked Frank's traditional approach and applauded his stance against newfangled, unproven methods. Many called Frank a "breath of fresh air" after an article came out about his work with local historical reenactors.
Frank, Pictured Here in a Confederate Surgeon's Uniform, Attends to a Gunshot Victim
Frank eventually went on to win CPR Instructor of the Year and was named as a pioneer for his promotional efforts in the Who's Who in CPR Publication. Here's how they described him, "IN YOUR HEART, YOU KNOW HE'S SMART."
Frank, a seasoned instructor, no longer gives demonstrations or teaches group classes at his academy. He still teaches advanced CPR classes to an elite group of MAASTERS, and he continues to travel, occasionally teaching his method to very lucky attendees.
Violence serves a purpose. Multiple purposes, actually. And the purpose it serves, the goals (and parameters) will drive how the violence occurs.
The threat who wants money for drugs will approach differently than the drunk college kid trying to impress a girl and neither will be quite the same as the person from a violent subculture who feels he has been shamed in front of his peers.
Knowing the base-- the different types of violence and their motivations-- is critical, but it is far from complete.
Also, to be clear: this is what I have seen. This information here has allowed me to recognize, evaluate and manipulate situations. That doesn't mean it is right. It doesn't mean I'm right. Actually, the second sentence in the paragraph is not how it worked. Like most of what I teach, this was back-engineered. Recognizing, evaluating and manipulating came first. The labels and connections and commonalities are what came out in the analysis and the debriefings. Success came long before understanding.
If you ever need this information, you will be the one on the ground. You will be there. I will not. Pay attention and make your judgment and act. You will need to trust yourself, but not naively. Learn. Study people like animals (because we are). Many people have very good instincts with other people, but some don't and the ones that don't tend to be in the victim profiles. The other victim profile, of course, include those who over-estimate their awareness or street smarts.
This is about human interaction and the analysis of human reaction. Like almost anything that has to do with humans it is both complex and dead simple. Not a mix. It is both. When it comes to reading a person the complexity comes in the interaction primarily of goal, ability and adrenaline.
The simplicity comes in, "He wants X and he is preparing to get it in this way." People get in trouble when they take that simple part and make it complicated. Do you need to know metallurgy to turn a wrench? Neither do you need to know someone's internal existential struggles to deal with that person as a threat. Recognize complexity where it is unavoidable but never imagine or create it. Occam's razor applies.
The next sections will be on recognizing adrenaline signs. Then differences in social and asocial approaches and distinguishing between threat displays and pre-assault indicators. I'm toying with writing about architecture, but I think my insight there is very limited.
As far as reading people, Terry Trahan's chapter in "Campfire Tales from Hell" is really good and hits it from a slightly different angle than I will. It's highly recommended (and I don't get money for it so I don't feel guilty plugging it.)
I've seen other practitioners of this style. Some were good, some terrible. But all had his same 'off' feeling.
Finally figured it out. In every case, they were doing inefficient things efficiently. The best practitioners are smooth. The 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast" concept works because speed is really based on efficiency. Smooth is efficient. The less you move to get the same effect, the more efficient you are and the faster you seem.
So each actual motion was very efficient, but he would use five or six moves when only one or two were necessary to get to the same result. In one case, a 45 degree difference in the first step would cut out the need for three moves. And give you more options.
So there is a difference between efficiency of motion and tactical efficiency. And even experienced people sometimes confuse them. And people love complexity. If they are quick enough to get away with it, people tend to extend engagements (at least play or training engagements) and make things more complex.
Efficient complexity may look good. Maybe some people see it as proof of skill. But simplicity is efficient. Efficiency by itself isn't 'mastery' (I hate that word.) It's efficiency of motion and efficiency of tactics and strategic efficiency. Minimum motion for maximum effect.
Kano was a genius. (Maximum efficiency, minimum effort.)
- Does your uke have to attack from out of range for your technique to work? Big red flag.
- Does your technique require or expect uke to follow a specific pattern?
- Is that pattern nonsensical with respect to tori's movement?
- Does tori use more motions than uke?
- Does uke have to hold still?
One more edit, because I think the point isn't clear: You can be the fastest runner in the world, but if you take an inefficient route you will still lose.
In Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” a young Ender in his first fight escalates the event to a brutal beating as a warning to others.
Deadwood, Dakota Territory, 1876. Jack McCall shoots James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock in the back of the head. Though McCall is acquitted at his first, irregular trial, he is retried and found guilty after bragging about the shooting.
Long a staple of prison literature, the fish (new prisoner) must prove to all that he is more brutal than anything he will face. As Jack Henry Abbot wrote: “The first…I forced him to his knees , and with my knife at his throat, made him… This is the way it is done.” (In the Belly of the Beast, Jack Henry Abbot, 1981 pp 93-94)
This is the Status Seeking Show, a very particular type of violence aimed at achieving a very particular social effect.
Some societies and sub-societies are relatively dangerous. People beat and stab others over insults or drug deals gone bad. It’s not just dangerous, it’s also stressful and it feels like there is no way out. Humans are smart and adaptable however, and some have found a clever way to feel safe in that environment. They get a reputation.
It’s a very specific reputation. They want to be known as ‘hard’ or ‘crazy.’ They want to be seen as someone ‘too dangerous to mess with.’ The way to get this reputation is simple: You break the rules of social violence.
Social violence has rules, and most of the previous articles have introduced some of the rules:
- Individuals Monkey Dance at their own level. Lieutenants vie with lieutenants, not generals. Men Monkey Dance with other men, not with women and not with children.
- The Educational Beat Down requires that a rule be broken, that the person be told why they will be punished, it comes from higher in the hierarchy and it ends when the target acknowledges their guilt.
The Status Seeking Show breaks the rules. Shooting an authority figure or shooting a child. Beating someone who has not broken a rule or refusing to acknowledge the signal to stop. Using extreme violence when it is unnecessary specifically because it is unnecessary.
Of the types of social violence, the status seeking show may be the most dangerous. The group monkey dance variations are brutal, but often preventable (don’t betray a group that enforces rules violently) or predictable (groups of young men raising hell and heading your way are usually easy to see coming). When someone wants to send a message that he doesn’t follow the rules, predictability and preventability go way down.
It can be as brutal as any predatory violence, moreso since it is about the show, not about getting stuff. The brutality of a status seeking show is inefficient when the goal is money or drugs.
Identifying a Status Seeking ShowThe SSS can present like a Monkey Dance, an Educational Beat Down or like a Bonding Group Monkey Dance. The key is differentiating.
A MD traditionally starts with the hard stare and the challenge, e.g. “What you lookin’ at?” The MD is predictable and there are ways to prevent it. You can apologize, change the subject… almost anything but play the game back. When these tactics fail, it is likely that this is not about status, but about show or fun. Either is dangerous. In a normal MD, the threat’s attention will be focused on you and internally. On you because he is reading subtle signals about your status; internally because he is afraid of not being man enough. In most SSSs, the threat is consciously playing to the audience. I hope you never experience enough of these to be able to tell the difference at a glance, but you can.
An Educational Beat Down almost always starts with a statement about the rule you have broken (unless the rule is blatantly obvious in that culture) and often comes with instructions. It can range from, “Apologize to the lady.” to “Don’t disrespect me or we are gonna throw down.”
Unless the rule is egregious, like (probably the most common in situations that lead to violence) having an affair, a sincere and respectful apology almost always sidesteps escalation. It must be sincere, without smirks or eye-rolling. It must be respectful, without any comments about lower orders of being or stupid rules. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” Has gotten me out of missteps from Baghdad to Quito. Tagging on, “But that’s a dumb rule,” would have ended badly. If an apology doesn’t work, you may be looking at an SSS.
There are other clues as well. An EBD usually comes from a high-status member of a group. Not the highest, but high. If the person attempting to correct your behavior is low status, he may be trying to build a reputation. Because of the status levels, a person doing a ‘proper’ EBD will not be looking to the group for approval. A low status individual will, and he often won’t get it. I’ve worked with populations of criminals mostly and in this situation, old cons well know the insecurities that drive this behavior and do not respect it. They won’t interfere, that would be against the code, but they won’t approve, either.
Be very, very careful. De-escalation and prevention must be sincere and your pride is one of the biggest traps waiting for you. A sincere apology or not playing the Monkey Dance back at the threat almost always works. But a part of your brain, especially if you are a young man, is going to kick in and try to save face. A part of your brain will want you to say something nasty under your voice while walking away. Will want to let the other person know that you still think he is beneath you. Will trigger a crisis that you could have prevented.
And if you are one of the people who wants a confrontation, an insincere de-escalation will fail…and you might tell yourself “De-escalation failed! This isn’t a Monkey Dance! This is a Status-Seeking Show!” and go for a level of force that is unjustified or unnecessary. DO NOT FOOL YOURSELF.
A Status Seeking Show may precipitate a Group Monkey Dance. Sometimes you will have successfully de-escalated a situation only to find one member will not let it go or begins to egg the others on. It is an SSS if the member initiates an attack and sometimes, emotions being contagious, others will join in. Related dynamic is the mouth in the group egging the others on, "You gonna let him walk away? He's playing you!"
Two things become clear in an analysis of the SSS.
1) Your own pride, as the potential victim, can be a dangerous pitfall. Not because there is anything wrong with standing up for yourself or standing up to the bad people of the world. Pride is dangerous because it prevents you from seeing the situation, or even your own actions clearly. Pride in self-defense may be easy to see, but the mechanism is the same in little things: “I was perfectly clear, so if my employees didn’t understand what I wanted it is their fault.” Same mechanism.
2) Preclusion is important. In most jurisdictions one of the tests to establish if an act of force was self-defense includes whether or not there were valid non-violent options, like leaving or apologizing. Not only is a sincere attempt to de-escalate valuable in a claim of self-defense, it can give you valuable information about what is really going on.
I want to expand on point two. There are types of violence that have very similar (or not) outcomes and similar dynamics that have very different causes. You must distinguish them because the necessary deescalations are different.
That's too obscure. A Monkey Dance is low risk. A Status Seeking Show is high risk. But the pattern will be the same until the very end. Preclusion (trying to walk away, trying to apologize) is not a good idea just because of self-defense law but it is the easiest test to find which you face. Same with the two date-rape dynamics-- there is a test to tell you which you are facing. Sharks and tigers are both dangerous, but they are avoided in different ways. You have to be able to tell what you are facing.
There is also an individual dynamic with the SSS. It starts as a low-status, low-esteem, unrespected member of the group. As mentioned before, the old cons don't respect these guys. They're punks. But once they have the rep, they sometimes need to feed the rep. And in an more organized outlaw group, they will be used as disposable enforcers. But some of them get good at it and some of them get addicted, and they become very dangerous provided they stay alive and out of prison. Their dangerousness is based on being crazy, unpredictable and violent. Not cool under pressure or skilled.
There's a quote from the movie The Dirty Dozen, where Donald Sutherland's character Pinkley is inspecting the troops, pretending to be a general. He says, "Very pretty, General. Very pretty. But, can they fight?"
I see it all the time...martial artists doing elaborate,
acrobatic moves, and I always find myself thinking like Pinkley...man, that's pretty, very pretty, but can they fight.
Do fancy, complicated moves translate to combat? Why do we feel compelled to add fancy flourishes to simple, direct movements?
I can think of nothing uglier than hand to hand combat.
It's a nasty, messy activity. I talked to a Korean War veteran once about his combat experiences where entrenching tools, knives, rifle butts, fists and feet were used in a desperate, all-out battle. The description of this furious fight was the stuff of nightmares.
I have seen the aftermath of a real knife fight, I have witnessed people being brought into the ER with street fight wounds, and I have watched as one man was stomped to unconsciousness in a violent street brawl.
Fortunately I have only been in a few real fights in my life. They happened quickly and were over in seconds. Only later did I feel the bruises, taste the blood, experience the stiffness from sore muscles.
But I have known people and learned a few tricks from guys who have been in dozens of street fights; bouncers, long haul truck drivers, pipe line construction workers, tough guys, some soldiers from the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell who had been on long range reconnaissance missions, and a few rednecks who really liked nothing better than a beer-joint bust up.
One of my instructors had been a street cop whose beat was in some very rough parts of town. Another one of my instructors had been a H2H combat instructor for the famed ROK Tigers. He had combat experiences from the Vietnam War, some of which included up close and personal combat.
There was a common denominator with all of these guys: all of them, believed in straight, to-the-point, no-nonsense tactics. They all seemed to share a direct, nothing-fancy approach. Not a thousand moves, not even a hundred. Maybe a dozen or so solid, dependable, go-to techniques.
Some moves from boxing for sure, that's a given. Maybe a couple of take-downs from high school football and a trip or two from judo. Knees and elbows most certainly. Clinch fighting and grabbing the jacket collar, lapel or sleeves. The concept of grabbing and using whatever's nearby as a shield or a club or something to throw as a distraction. If they kicked at all, they kicked low--to the groin, the knee, the shin, or a stomp to the foot or to the face of a downed opponent.
They could all wrestle, and knew how to get up or how to get someone off of them. They knew how to get into and maintain a superior ground position where they could rain down destruction. None of them thought in terms of rules or fair play. Hit first, hit hard, hit often. No concept of tapping out or yielding. If the fight went to the ground, you kept fighting.
With the exception of the martial arts instructor, most of these guys weren't what you would call fit, at least not by today's standards. They drank a lot and a few of them smoked a pack or two of cigarettes a day. But they were strong, probably from doing tough physical labor all their lives. Farm work. Construction work. Not much flab.
I liked being around these guys. I liked the way they talked. Loved hearing their stories, a lot of which was probably exaggerated bullshit, but you could tell when they were really telling the truth. When they would show me a trick they would throw in a couple of tips: Chin down, they'd say. Hands up. Move! Don't be a sitting duck. Be a moving target. Don't square off, turn your body. Keep your damn'd hands up!
When they showed me a technique, they'd show me once, and then come at me. Usually half speed, limited power. Soon though and they'd be coming in quick as a snake, punching for real. If you snooze you lose. Get hit, next time you'll get your hands up..throw 'em in the deep end.
Hard hands. If they hit you, it'd feel like they had a roll of quarters in their fist. Vice like grips. And if you managed to get in a punch, their bodies felt like concrete.
They knew about knives. How to hold them in tight. Knew enough to know that you should grab a pool cue if you could 'cause it was about to turn ugly. Knew that running was okay and it wasn't about some stupid sense of pride or being a warrior or something noble. Sometimes you had to stand up to a bully. Sometimes you had to fight when you couldn't run. Sometimes you were gonna catch a beating. Does it hurt, I'd ask. Hell yeah, it hurts. Hurts like a som'a'bitch. They'd show me a scar, or a chipped tooth, or an empty socket where a tooth used to be. Some had gnarled, scarred hands.
I admired their animal courage. I saw one of these guys knock out a guy who owed him money. It was a short, snappy punch to the jaw, and the guy fell, as they say, like a bag of flour. I was mesmerized by their ability to stay strong in voice, no trembling, no weak knees, when facing down a bigger guy or, in some cases, more than one opponent.
Most of them didn't brag. A few tried to downplay their toughness. Joked a lot, laughed like crazy at their own stories. Always knew a bunch of guys tougher than them. "There was this ONE guy..." they'd all say, some real tough-as-nails serious, straight up bad ass. Guy who was long since dead or in jail.
When they found out my interest in fighting, they'd say forget it. You don't want that. Stay away from bars. Ain't nothing good gonna come from that. When they learned I was into the martial arts they'd say, keep it simple. Don't try anything fancy. One guy gave me this advice, "When push comes to shove, kick his teeth in."
I always wondered what these guys would say if you were to show 'em some of the stuff people do. Fancy, silly, outlandish uniforms, very precise, exact, overly rehearsed movements. A stand there while I work you over approach.
I think they would laugh. I think they would say, try that on the street, and you'll get your ass kicked.
I'm pretty sure they would admire what the MMA fighters can do now. They'd be intrigued with some of the stuff BJJ fighters know how to do...probably say, wish I'd known THAT move. I know for a fact they'd have admiration for some of the basic moves from FMA knife work.
But when it turns pretty, if somebody threw in something flashy, I'm convinced they'd just stare and shake their heads.
Some of the unpublished ones are first drafts of articles that were published. A few are crap.
But there are a few...
In some I couldn't get the tone right. There are certain things you can't learn when things are going well. Learning about inner workings of some organizations requires enough of a consistent type of painful mistake that you can see and come to predict the pattern. Learning anything about the mechanics of a violent assault almost always requires mistakes. You learn certain things because you are stupid in certain ways...and almost every time I've tried to write about that, it comes off sounding whiny and self-pitying to my own ears. I simply don't have the skill as a writer to make certain points in the right way.
Same with certain kinds of clarification. When "Meditations on Violence" first came out, some of the reviewers read diametrically opposite things in the same material. I'd been warned about that by the professional writers, but my first instinct was to explain, to clarify... and that fails on two levels. First, people will read what they want or expect to read and that includes in the clarification. Second, it just sounds defensive. Especially if you are defensive it serves no purpose but to validate the point of view.
Actually, there's a third-- anything you write must stand on its own. Writing is a telepathic message into the future. You won't always be alive to clarify.
There are subjects I stay away from, but have strong opinions about. Especially when the political silly season was on, I wanted to write about economics and politics. People conflate money and wealth; conflate jobs and work. But these issues are so tied to the limbic system it would do no good, except give people an excuse to not listen to core things.
Some of the unpublished stuff is just too personal. I write fairly close to the bone here, share, share some deep water stuff. But there are some wounds that I'm afraid will always be fresh. Some complicated feelings that I don't think can ever be shared adequately in the written word. Some that can only be grasped by a very few people. And some of this is stuff I want to write, stuff that tries to claw its way out of me and onto paper. Maybe I'll let K publish it when I croak.
And some of it is just pure mean. And K tells me not to be mean.
All societies, subsocieties and groups have rules. Sometimes the rules are formal—states and nations have statutes and even the local gardening club has bylaws. Sometimes the rules are informal. Families don’t have constitutions, but the kids know what behaviors will get them in trouble.
In any given society, the rules will be enforced. Maybe not well or consistently, but they will be enforced.
In a healthy group (defined as one in which everyone agrees on the methods and goals) ‘enforcement’ may be merely a glance. Someone does something wrong, you look at him, maybe with a raised eyebrow, possibly say, “Really?” and he says, “Ah, dammit. I screwed up. Sorry.” Unless it turns into a power play, the verbal variation of the Monkey Dance, the member of a healthy group is grateful for the correction.
As groups become less healthy, they also become less secure. The methods for correcting behavior escalate, from informal gossip campaigns and chilling a person out to screaming at subordinates…
There are other factors at play. Different subsocieties have much different attitudes towards physical force. Some families spank, some do not. Some groups thwack the back of the head, some do not. Some nations execute, some do not.
These three factors: health of a group; security or insecurity of the group or its leadership and; attitudes toward violence shape if and when the educational beat-down will ever be a self-defense issue for you.
There are three cases where the EBD may be dangerous.
#1: If you are a dick. There is a pattern to the EBD. The first step is that you do something wrong. Yes, you. We all make errors and step on toes from time to time. If you think you never do or, worse, always have a reason why it is the other guy’s fault, you’re a dick. If you refuse to acknowledge that your group has rules or that the rules should apply to you, if you feel you are being oppressed by any rule you don’t happen to like… you’re a dick.
For most people, breaking the rules isn’t a big thing. You realize you violated protocol, acknowledge that there was an error and the error was yours, accept punishment if the group thinks it was merited, and move on. This is called “accepting responsibility,” and one of my personal rants is about people who want to skip the step about accepting the punishment. Merely acknowledging the error was yours is NOT accepting responsibility.
Rant aside, jerks have problems with every step of this. Most importantly, refusal to acknowledge that the rule existed and that you broke it prevents the EBD pattern from closing. It demands an escalation in correction.
“Toby! Apologize to your sister!”“No!”“Then go to your room and stay there until you are ready to apologize!”“No!”“Do you want a spanking?”
If you insist on being a dick, punishment will escalate until you are removed from the group, whether that means being fired or being beaten to death behind a bar. If you’ve been fired or divorced a lot, partner, it’s time to do some soul-searching. Cause you’re probably a dick.
#2) If the group or the leadership is insecure. This factor applies to all social violence but is especially obvious in corrective violence.
We are basically primates and a lot of our wiring is older than our ability to communicate. When we get tense, afraid or insecure, we tend to fall back on ancient patterns of behavior. If you are a good boss and people want your recognition and approval, they hurry to do what you say and work hard not to get you upset. If you are a terrible boss, people also hurry to do what you say and work hard not to get you upset. The emotional mind doesn’t really distinguish submissive behavior stemming from respect or submissive behavior stemming from fear.
When a boss feels he is coming under fire, he has a tendency to get loud and aggressive. This is what his limbic system is telling him to do. This will get submission signals from his group. This will make everything better.
From the outside, we see more clearly. We call this behavior “losing it” for a reason. If it happens in a society with a propensity for violence, it can escalate to a beating or murder. Like when Al Capone beat three of his lieutenants to death in 1929.
#3) Where you don’t know the rules. Most of us spend time around people that share our basic attitudes and beliefs. We know the rules and know, consciously or not, how they will be enforced. It can be a very dangerous situation when a person or a group travel to an unfamiliar place and expect or demand that the rules remain the same.
Whether it is a group of college kids going to the biker bar on the edge of town for a thrill or someone who hopes to backpack through another country, they will be exposed to new rules. It’s usually not a problem unless they possess that certain mix of arrogance and stupidity—unless they demand the right to follow their own rules.
In many cultures it is safe to be arrogant and stupid. If the culture is very homogenized and insular, silence or possibly stares are the worst that will happen. They will hate you, but they won’t hurt you.
In other cultures where violence is seen as an easy answer to many problems, it can be very dangerous. But even in a culture that regularly handles social disputes with knives or assault rifles, trouble is usually easy to avoid or evade.
Avoid trouble by not being there, of course, but if that is not an option:
- Keep your mouth shut. Answer questions, be polite, but don’t offer an opinion or try to ‘fix’ the locals. And especially don’t feel magnanimous or superior enough to say something like, “You people are ignorant and you worship evil, but that’s your right. Don’t change.” A British tourist I overheard in Istanbul.
- Be polite. That isn’t hard. Don’t stare, don’t back away, don’t argue.
Evading trouble is also easy. The Educational Beat Down follows a pattern and the pattern is universal. How does a child get out of a spanking? “I broke the lamp, mommy, I’m really sorry and I won’t do it again.” How does a killer get the death penalty taken off the table? Usually with a full confession and a show of remorse. How do you avoid hard feelings (or worse) when you try to speak Arabic to a Kurd? Or flirt with the bouncer’s girl? “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. It won’t happen again.”
Most of the time, if you acknowledge it was a valid rule, that you broke the rule and that you won’t do it again, there is no need to teach you a lesson. The behavior has been corrected and that is the sole purpose of the EBD: to enforce norms of behavior.
If you try to evade responsibility or say the rule was stupid or that the rule shouldn’t apply to you, if you put any weasel words into the apology, you don’t get it. The correction must escalate.
There is a fourth situation in which the EBD is dangerous, but it is more an historical artifact then a current problem. When resources are scarce, for instance, if a tribe expects a few starvation deaths each winter, people who don’t follow societal rules are a liability. Fewer things are punishable by death in an affluent society than in a marginal one.
There are very dangerous behaviors that can mimic the EBD. More accurately, many people use the underlying motivations of the EBD to attempt to justify viciousness. Abusers say, and may honestly believe, that they are teaching a lesson. Justified excessive force complaints arise when officers switch from subduing a suspect to punishing a perp. A fully justified act of self-defense can turn into assault with just a few extra kicks to send a message.
The dynamics of the EBD are also mimicked in the two most dangerous of the types of social violence: the Status Seeking Show (next lesson) and sometimes the bonding-style Group Monkey Dance (last lesson). Social violence, unlike predation, is primarily a form of communication, dysfunctional though it may be. Even if the real goal is just to enjoy beating someone, it goes better if the beating is preceded by a provocation from you.
“I beat her up for no reason,” doesn’t get a lot of play even in bad crowds. “Bitch called me fucktard so I taught her a lesson,” plays better.
The person looking for an excuse to get violent will try to get you to do or say something that can be used as a rationalization. It is not a reason—they already have the reason in that they want to hurt someone. It just needs to sound like a reason. When someone tries to incite you to inflammatory language and anger, that is the time to slow down, and act thoughtful and cold. And check the audience.
If there is no audience, this is probably a lead-in to a predatory assault. Experienced predators will mimic social patterns so that YOU stay on the predictable (and much less violent) social script. If there is an audience and they are egging on the threat, be prepared for a Monkey Dance. Apologize and leave, but be prepared to crash through the crowd if necessary.
Working on some new material for the Conflict Communications course and dealing with other projects as well.
There are two links that will help with the background on this post:
(Turns out I've never actually done a post on the ICS model and goals-backward versus resources-forward thinking. Maybe it was in "Meditations on Violence?" Memory is the second thing to go.)
I have a saying that if you don't know the difference between leadership and management, you're a manager. But knowing the difference is not the same as putting it in words or being able to explain the difference. Almost every book on leadership I've ever read was about management and written by a manager who thought he was a leader. The notable exception is Paul Howe's "Leadership and Training for the Fight."
So now I'm trying to put it into words and I think I have it, but it has an unexpected twist.
Managers are systems builders. They desire to create a system, a network of facilities and policies that remove the human element. They want to believe (and insist) that all people are equal, that all officers (or workers or deputies or soldiers) are the same and should be treated the same. They believe that if they can ever make a perfect system, the system will run smoothly and efficiently regardless of the actual humans that are doing the work.
And this is the first twist. The managers that I know are far more likely to talk about 'respect' and 'diversity' than the leaders I know, but the systems they create are inhuman machines. And so they 'respect diversity' while trying to reduce all people to numbers. To interchangeable cogs in this inhuman machine. All the while insisting they are only trying to be 'fair.'
My personal belief is that this isn't so much about the system or about the goal. I don't think it's that teleological. I think it is about trying to minimize personal conflict. You're a manager, you don't want to fire people. So much easier to just be the messenger who gives them the message that under current policy they can no longer be employed. The policy, not the boss, did the firing. There's still conflict, but you can pretend it's not personal. As long as you follow the policies, you have no responsibility for the outcomes. Because there are no decisions.
Another way to put it is that managers try to create a flow chart without personal decisions affecting the outcome. Remove the personal element and the product will always be perfect.
It works okay. It must, since management is rampant and leadership is rare. But there are severe weaknesses to this kind of system. The first that comes to mind is the inflexibility. Reliance on emergency protocols can be really, really good-- as long as you get an emergency you predicted and wrote a protocol for. Inflexibility also hurts you when you have a time-sensitive opportunity.
The second obvious problem is that there are people who excel at manipulating systems. No matter how well designed or well intentioned, bad people do bad things with good systems.
Third problem is that sooner or later, the system becomes the purpose. Hospitals exist to stay in business rather than to treat people. Governments promote and protect the parties rather than the citizens. How you do something (whether you followed the procedure) becomes more important than what you did-- and so we have retail workers fired for defending themselves and paramedics in the UK who must go into more detail in their reports about the safety equipment they wore than on how the victim was extracted from the crashed vehicle.
There are more, but don't get too comfortable and self-righteous. Management is more pervasive because it is more popular. Most people would rather be managed than led. Because being led demands more. It demands personal responsibility.
"I followed the policy. It's not my fault." Is adequate in a system. In the kind of place where leadership is allowed the answer is:
"Policy is no excuse. You knew this would happen."
The only protection under leadership is your personal skill, and very few people are comfortable with that. Management may create a soulless machine, but a lot of people seem comfortable there.
Leadership is about people, not policy. It is about telling people to their faces when they have screwed up and also when they have done well. Leadership is not always superior to management. It is much easier to be a bad leader than a bad manager and it has more effect. It is also easier to be a good leader than a good manager, and that has more effect to.
And that may be part of the difference. Managerial systems are designed so that the cogs are interchangeable. Including the managers. So a manager, whether good or bad, will cause little change. The situation is perfect for those who fear doing something wrong more than they value doing something well.
Maybe it's not such a twist. I was originally puzzled that so many I talk to think of leaders as hard chargers with little regard for others, when leadership is a people skill. Conversely, the words coming out of every HR department I've worked with have all been about valuing the individual, and fairness... and they are responsible for creating and maintaining an inhuman system.
But looked at from the twin perspectives of trying to avoid personal responsibility and avoid personal conflict it does make sense. Thus the people who use the word 'diversity' as a mantra want everyone to look different but think the same. It limits conflict. And I wanted the widest variety of backgrounds on my teams as possible, because people who thought different would come at problems from different angles. More conflict, but we solved some issues.
That's enough typing for now. Teams and committees will have to come later.
Daniel: You think you could break a log like that?
Miyagi: Don't know. Never been attacked by a tree. Karate Kid II
Breaking stuff, boards, bricks and ice, is universally associated with martial arts training. They go together like bacon and eggs, like spaghetti and meatballs, like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
When someone finds out that I'm into martial arts they invariably say, "Oh, so you do this!" and then they make that universal symbol of a karate-chop motion in the air, thumb extended, while saying "Hiii-ee-yah!"
"No," I say, "that's not what I do."
"You mean you don't break bricks and boards?"
"So, what DO you do then?" they ask.
"Fight training...hand-to-hand combat...personal protection skills."
"Oh," they say, usually sounding a little disappointed.
I've never really understood the importance of board breaking. But lots of my friends do it...make a big production of it. Some even hold clinics in which they teach their students the intricacies of board breaking.
"Board breaking," according to the Academy of Traditional Karate, in Washington, MA, "is a great confidence-boosting activity. It helps you set goals and see the power and effectiveness of your karate strikes."
In most demonstrations involving board breaks one or more people will hold one or more boards in a static position. The person breaking the board(s) will take time setting up the break, making fine, last-minute adjustments to the angle, making sure the grain is aligned properly, and ensuring that the person(s) holding the board(s) use(s) a good tight grip. They may take several preliminary practice punches or kicks, like a baseball batter taking practice swings. They may get themselves mentally prepared with deep breathing, wild war-face expressions, and loud shouts. They often bow before and after each break as if it's a ceremony or ritual.
At one demo, I saw a guy who had unsuccessfully attempted to break some boards with a kick, berating the guy who didn't hold the board right, which resulted in a nice, loud 'thud' but no broken board.
What has any of this to do with fighting or self defense?
What did Bruce Lee mean when he said, "Boards don't hit back"? Why do people still do it, and shouldn't they know better?
I mean, we all know this: An attacker does not stand still, rigid, at just the right angle. An attacker will not brace himself so that your punches and kicks hit a firm, stationary target. Chances are an opponent will be moving around or hard-charging directly in towards his intended victim.
The reason that martial arts include board breaks is because they teach students to focus strikes on specific points and use full power. No matter how powerful a student is, if he or she can't hit a target (and boards are usually still, but that doesn't always help) then they can't effectively use their strikes. If they can always hit something but don't know how to apply power, they're no better off. (1)
But here's an entry from Wikipedia, which points out some of the issues with board breaking: "Breaking is based on physics and selection of materials, and the most commonly seen breaking involves spaced, softwood boards. While very difficult to break even a piece of soft pine wood hitting against (perpendicular to) the grain, breaking is almost always done with (parallel to) the grain - which requires little skill or strength. The use of spacers means instead of breaking the entire stack at once, they break one at a time; each one helps break the next as little momentum is lost and gravity is helping. Because of this, breaking is primarily used as an advertising gimmick to woo potential customers."
If it's true that "how you practice, is how you'll perform," or "how you rehearse, is how you'll react," then shouldn't board breaking be done differently? Trying to break a board that's in motion?
I don't dispute that board breaking takes strength, accuracy, precision and explosive force. Especially when someone breaks 3 or 4 or more boards without using a spacer between them. Especially speed breaks with little set up, or that trick that some martial artists do where they toss a board in the air and break it with a spin kick. That takes incredible skill.
But it's an outdated, potentially fraudulent stunt that really does not translate into real-world fighting skill. To my friends who have a don't-knock-it-til-you've-tried-it philosophy, I can say that I have indeed broken boards. In fact, I used to take beginners and have them break a board in their first session just so they could say they've done it and hopefully get it out of their system.
I just don't understand its allure. It's just another example of much ado about nothing.
“If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti
I doubt if anyone would dispute that slow, methodical, deliberate training is needed in order to eventually become fast. Walking through a series of movements--getting familiar with the sequence, letting the action steps settle into your muscle memory--will ultimately pay off when you pick up speed. Learning at a calm, slow pace until the moves begin to feel familiar just makes sense.
But there's nothing like good, dynamic, explosive training from time to time.
If training is always at a certain speed, then explosiveness may not be there for you when you really need it. You just don't see NASCAR drivers using cruise control. Sometimes you gotta kick out the jams, go all-out, full-power, pedal-to-the-metal, full-speed ahead.
Dial the intensity all the way up to 11 every now and then!
Some researchers contend that explosiveness training is just inviting injury, but others have reached different conclusions.
University of Alabama researchers, for example, found that doing weight resistance exercises slowly, what some have called super-slow lifting, usually just end up making workout super-long. The up phase of a lift, they concluded, should be done at a moderate to fast tempo, while the down, or lowering phase, should be done at a slow, controlled pace.
But I guess it really depends on what you want to accomplish. Sprinters probably do some slow-paced runs every now and then to maintain or improve aerobic capacity, but mostly they just run really fast. Or they do things which contribute to speed, such as plyometrics, strength and power training, and sport-specific drills using drag sleds and parachutes, to develop shot-out-of-a-gun acceleration.
That's why it's surprising for me when I see some martial artists always training at a certain, comfortable speed. Instead of ratcheting up the training, they have a don't-touch-that-dial philosophy, and they always train at a deliberate cruise control pace.
Reality tells us this is not a smart plan. The action of a violent assault is fast, blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast. If you've ever been in a real fight, or if you've watched real fights on security footage, it becomes all too clear that a methodical approach and a leisurely pace just won't cut it.
How to Add Explosiveness
- Work towards obtaining maximal strength: Strength is the root of power, and power is strength in motion. Fast people are also strong people, and strong where it matters. Just look at the incredible, statuesque physiques of fast runners. The common denominator resistance exercises, seen in most any sports training program, are military presses, deadlifts, bench presses, curls, lunges and squats. Many sports trainers adhere to the 'big-butts-big-power' philosophy and use glute exercises to overcome the quad dominance found in slower, untrained athletes.
- Transition to explosive training: Once adequate strength gains are made, it's time to start working on power and acceleration. A solid base level of strength is required to ensure injury-free training. Adding speed to your resistance lifts to increase the intensity is appropriate once you have developed a strong base. Squats and burpees are fantastic, and so is heavy bag training. I remember doing what seemed like thousands of 'touch your boots' squats, pull-ups and push-ups in Airborne training at Fort Benning Georgia to prepare us for the rigorous demands of landing after jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. These standard exercises build explosiveness, endurance and strength and should be a part of any fighter's training program.
- Utilize plyometric exercises: 'Eccentric' is not just your crazy uncle. In the world of elite athletes, plyometrics, in which you merge both eccentric and concentric contractions in specialized exercises, helps develop explosiveness. Performing unique jumping and bounding movements, such as squat and jumps, doing push ups/press ups in which you launch yourself from the ground and attempt to clap one or more times before you hit the ground, or lying on the ground and catching a dropped heavy medicine ball and explosively sending it back to your partner standing above you on a chair, will make your techniques more powerful.
- Overload training helps: Wearing weight vests, wrist weights, and/or ankle weights in a smart way can pay off down the road. Of course it's recommended that you avoid snapping, fully extended movements while wearing wrist and ankle weights. Off-road trail hiking on uneven terrain while wearing a backpack loaded up with sand bags is dynamite training for back, core, quads, glutes, and ankles.
- Reduce work-to-rest ratios: As Vince Lombardi said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Speed training can very quickly deplete energy reserves. Learning how to work through this fatigue by gradually changing the work-to-rest ratio will provide you with confidence. Go and watch a high school or college wrestling team train some time, and you'll see athletes who push themselves way past what would turn the average athlete to mush. This type of training can feel like punishment, but world class athletes swear by it.
- Use periodization: You can't train fast ALL the time. Cycle your training so that speed training and plyometrics are specifically scheduled, and progressively work towards those specific weeks and then gradually taper down before attempting it again a few weeks later.
- Hit the road, Jack: Boxers will often do long, slow distance or LSD running, and so should we all. But sprint training on the high school track and hill training (both uphill and downhill) are also needed. When I coached a full contact kickboxing team back in the 80s we used 100 yard dashes to condition the fighters. When I prepared U.S. soldiers for NATO courses such as German Ranger school or French Commando training, the soldiers would jog uphill with a buddy on their back.
- Use equipment: Drag sleds, parachutes, and bungee cords are fantastic pieces of equipment. Or for a cheap alternative simply use your martial arts belt with a partner holding on to the ends of the belt attempting to hold you back as you try to move forward. This type of training can help in working to overcome resistance. Judoka will often use bicycle inner tubes or elastic bands to practice moving in for a throw, and wrestlers will use harnesses and bungee cords to add resistance as they attempt to shoot in for a takedown. Using a grappling dummy who feels no pain or fatigue regardless of your best efforts to slam it into oblivion can help get your lungs quickly begging for precious O2.
- Stand in the corner: I love having students get in a corner and try to punch and kick their way out while surrounded by training partners holding kicking shields. This is exhausting, but realistic training. To make it even more intense set an egg timer and tell the student to make it out before the bell rings or they'll have to do it again!
- Change directions: Being able to move fast in one direction is not enough. Being able to change directions quickly is key. Zig zag, quick-feet footwork drills or having the student engage targets in multiple directions helps develop this much needed skill. You can surround the student with 4 partners holding kicking shields. Give each attacker a number and randomly shout out a number to signal one of them to charge in. This forces the defender to change directions quickly and be ready for an attack from any angle.
- Get wet: Training in a swimming pool is phenomenal at providing resistance and enhancing speed. I have done judo, wrestling, and stand-up sparring in a pool, and I have even practiced trying to run full speed in a lane intended for swimming. After a little of this you'll feel like the Flash when you try to run on solid ground. Don't believe me that it's great training? Just look at this picture of the greatest himself!
"Welcome to the real world."
When I first started training in martial arts, it was not uncommon to find a poster in every dojo showing the body's vulnerable areas. Little red arrows pointed to the eyes, nose and chin, the ribs, the solar plexus, the groin, the kidneys, the knees, etc. The poster implied that the body was just chock full of vital areas which, if struck, would produce agonizing pain, mind-searing trauma, and absolute unconsciousness or worse.
I still see these old posters from time to time, and sometimes I'll see newer, revamped versions. What's odd is that the number of vulnerable areas seems to have grown. With the popularity and growth of so-called 'pressure point fighting' techniques, a typical poster now looks like a picture in a medical journal of a victim of measles.
Here's what they don't tell you: Hitting those targets, especially on a living, breathing, highly agitated, resisting, bull-charging, coked-out, brain-numbed, adrenalized attacker ain't that easy. And here's something else they may forget to say: Even if you are lucky enough to actually hit one of those targets, the result may not be as dramatic as you have been led to expect.
It's not just that you're trying to hit a moving target. You're trying to hit a MOVING-AT-YOU target.
Many martial artists, it seems, are absolutely obsessed with precision. They obsess about achieving the proper stance and perfect posture and other trivial matters. I once watched a class in which 3 different types of praying mantis hands were described along with the merits of each. Too many martial artists worry about the art and forget all about the martial. They obsess over fine nuances of techniques, concerned for how good they look.
A clue: If your favorite piece of training equipment is the mirror, you may be approaching your fighting skills all wrong.
Precision, or exactness and accuracy, are goals in many sports and recreational activities--golf, darts, archery, bowling, etc. In dance, in gymnastics and in other performance-driven arts, precision is indeed important. An artist will be judged on the merits of his or her precise movements. Perhaps, in the arena of combat sports, such as boxing, MMA, K-1, Muay Thai, precision is a major factor.
"I believe in precision," said professional boxer Alexis Arguello. "I'd take precision any day over power."
But in the world of hand-to-hand combat, and life-or-death personal protection, precision is just one of many factors. I would contend that there are a number of other factors and attributes that are key:
- Positioning. Finding a stance (fighting platform) that is both stable and mobile. Chin down, hands up. Knees bent. Ready to pivot. Room to move. Move like an athlete. Agile.
- Power. Achieving stopping power. Mass times acceleration.
- Redundancy. Back-up plans and follow-up tactics.
- Tenacity. Stubborn, never-say-die, honey-badger-don't-care mindset.
- Flow. Not some flippy-dippy small stream flow. I'm talking a raging torrent of techniques. Machine-gun mentality.
- Emotional control. Just the right amount of fierce anger. Not yielding to fear, not succumbing to panic. Not giving in to energy-sapping emotion.
- Breathing. Keep breathing. Force the breath out. Bring air in.
- Pain management. It'll hurt tomorrow, but not today, not now. Put it out of your mind.
- As Morpheus told Neo in the movie "The Matrix": "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." Don't get fixated. Don't evaluate, don't measure, don't judge your performance. Don't think too much. Allow the machine to do what it has been trained to do. As George Clinton said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
In May, 2003 developmentally disabled 22-year-old Jessica Williams was tortured, stabbed, beaten and her body burned by her ‘street family’ for alleged betrayal. At least eleven people were charged. I worked with most of them. In custody they ranged from respectful to fearful.This level of group violence gets called a lot of things. A group stomping, a wilding, a gang-rape…even a drive-by shooting has some of the same dynamics. Humans are primates and sometimes, as primates, we indulge in violence as a group or even as a mob.This type of violence isn’t about status: there is no proving you’re a better man by being part of a group that kicks someone to death. This, the Group Monkey Dance, is about one of three things:
1) Teaching an outsider to respect boundaries. Domestic violence calls are often cited as one of the most dangerous police situations. No matter how brutally damaged the victim is, there is always a chance that both the victim and the victimizer will turn on the responding officers. I have a video of a young man breaking up a fight. Both of the involved fighters and the audience turn on the young man.Humans in groups prefer to handle things within the group. They become resentful and sometimes violent if an outsider decides to ‘fix’ things. The tighter, smaller and more cohesive the group, the more interference is resented.Here’s an example that most readers will relate to, one that many readers have actually done. If you are an older sibling, you picked on and fought with your younger brothers and sisters, right? Little dominance games happen all the time between children.However, when your little brother or sister started school, if they were bullied, didn’t you step in? Though the dominance game (new kid with a group of other kids in a new school) was natural, it violated the idea of family. You may beat up your kid brother. No one else can.Stopping others from picking on your family is an example of forcing an outsider to respect boundaries.Emotions are contagious and when one member of a group starts getting violent, other members of the same group join in. It seems logical that they do this out of fear, that their own loyalty to the group might be doubted and they might be seen as outsiders. It seems logical, but I doubt there is that much thought involved. People join in too quickly.The solidarity with the group allows an intense level of violence. The more one identifies with the group, the easer it is to see an outsider as ‘other’ and the ability to other sets the amount of damage one can do.
2) Betrayal. Betrayal is one of the deepest emotions in the human animal. Treason is punishable by execution even when nothing else is. For many years, killing a cheating spouse had it’s own legal defense and was termed an “excusable homicide” Florida’s statute for instance in part read:
782.03 Excusable homicide.—Homicide is excusable when committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent, or by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, without any dangerous weapon being used and not done in a cruel or unusual manner.
Perhaps this comes from our prehistory, where starvation was a real danger and anyone who couldn’t be trusted risked everyone’s life.In any case, in any group or subculture where violence is an acceptable tool, betrayal (real or not) can be met with horrific violence. It becomes a contest where each member of a group proves loyalty by what they are willing to do to the betrayer.The case that opens this story was a local example. Middle-eastern stonings over adultery are another. In almost any culture, however that culture defines betrayal, betrayal will be punished with the most extreme force allowed.
3) Bonding. There is very little as bonding as committing violence with a small group of friends. Our ancestors would hunt big animals as a group and tell stories about the hunt and each other. In the intensity of the chase and the spear you would find out much about your compatriots: who was cool under stress, who lost control, who was afraid and who you could trust. The intensity of shared experience makes a tight group.Nothing has changed. I am tighter with the former members of my tactical team than with most of my blood family. Combat veterans and even people who went through intense training feel a close bond. The dynamic is the same in drive-by shootings, wildings in Central Park or even fraternity hazing.
Avoiding the Group Monkey DanceThe first rule is to never betray a group. You may leave a group (and all groups that I am aware of, even the most violent, have a mechanism to leave) and may even become an open enemy afterwards, but betraying a group from the inside, or even being believed to, is very, very bad.If you choose to get involved in an insider situation as an outsider, think it through. Cops have a duty to act. Civilians don’t. If you don’t need to get involved, weigh the risks and decide if it is worth it. Be as objective as you can. It is dangerous.The best verbal intervention is to present yourself as an objective outsider who has no opinion and doesn’t care about who is right or wrong. Right or wrong are determined by in-group standards in any case. “Break it up! You’re hurting her!” immediately puts you in a position of both being an outsider and judgmental.“You’d better knock it off, I overheard someone calling 911 and the cops are on the way,” will break up the situation without turning the focus to you.The bonding monkey dance is a special case. Some are performed for fun (wildings in Central Park, videoed beatings on youtube) some are protecting territory or market share (drive-by shootings) and some are simply for cash.Situational awareness is an over-used phrase. Without specific education of the things you need to be aware of it’s only words. Meaningless. For this type of crime, what you are looking for are patterns of motion. Groups moving purposefully together. Groups that cease talking and laughing and split up after spotting a mark. The patterns of a pincer movement or triangulation. Staged loitering, where people lounge against walls but with unusual separation, so that when you walk past they are perfectly staged, one in front of you and one or more behind. Sometimes, in neighborhoods with experience of gang violence or where a violent group is creating trouble, you can read the flow of other people. As a rule of thumb, if you’re in an unfamiliar place and all the natives clear the street, you might want to think about it as well.
If you become the center of a Group Monkey Dance it is hard to overstate the level of danger. The safest of the variations is the simple group mugging for cash. There’s no value in excessive damage and the bloodier the crime the more it gets investigated. But if any member of the group is insecure and senses a loss of control he will explode into violence. Emotions being contagious, the rest of the group will likely join in. The damage can be horrific. None of the other variations are better.There are four tactics that I have known to prevent a Monkey Dance. Three require special abilities. The most obvious and the easiest was an act of such overwhelming violence that it shocks and scares the group. An officer and friend stopped a riot in a jail by walking into the module, grabbing the largest of the rioting inmates, spinning him in the air and slamming him in to the ground. Not many people can snatch up a 240-pound man and lift him overhead.The second is to make the threats laugh. That’s hard to do. Don’t count on it. The things that make a group of people who enjoy hurting others laugh are not the same things that tickle audiences in nightclubs. This will not work if the GMD was triggered by betrayal or a perceived betrayal.The third tactic is to increase either the doubt or the danger level. If the threats know that you are armed, it raises their risk. Looters in major disturbances famously avoid armed premises in favor of unarmed. I generally don’t advocate ever showing a weapon, except, perhaps in this case. Like any time that you show a weapon, if the threat display doesn’t work, you will almost certainly have to use the weapon or it will be taken away and used against you.People who have allies, back-up or a reputation for fighting all raise the risk. People who do not respond like victims, who stay unusually calm or act strangely increase the doubt. Neither of these will matter in betrayal or some random acts of group violence but they might dissuade a group lacking in confidence without a personal issue with you, the victim.The fourth and most effective tactic is to get the hell out of there. Run.
I've read some other criticism, mostly reactions to this post. I don't worry about the criticism. Everything seemed to be arguing against what they imagine I teach, not what I actually teach.
But Charles is a good guy, and a smart one. So this seems to be a good time to talk about what I actually do teach. Not the SD law stuff. Most of that is in "Facing Violence". The philosophy and concepts.
I don't teach Force Law as a decision making skill. For two reasons. In most ugly situations things are going to be coming thick and fast and you won't have time to make conscious decisions. The idea that every force decision is weighed as if a reasonable person had time to think is something of a legal fiction.
The second reason is that in most cases self-defense law is intuitively obvious. A lot of laws are just codifications of local ideas of common sense. If you were raised in this culture and you aren't a pathological asshole, you will make good self-defense decisions.
Does anybody here want to use force if they don't absolutely have to? Anyone want to kill another human being if there is any other option? Anyone want to hurt someone more than they absolutely have to? It's really that simple.
There are gray areas. Not as many as you think. Most cases of real self-defense are pretty clear cut. If you, with no criminal record and ties to the community, prevail over an intruder in your home... not hard to argue. Even outside the home, local cops tend to know the bad guys.
The murky ones tend to fall into a category called AvANHI, or Asshole versus Asshole, No Humans Involved. It's harsh and politically incorrect, but when you have a drug dealing piece of shit killing a pimping piece of shit over a business deal gone bad, or an alcohol fueled domestic where both parties stabbed each other...it's hard to tell what is self defense and what is simple assholery.
And there are some jurisdictions where I get the sense that anything you do with a gun will be prosecuted. Politics does come into this.
And there are a few ways that citizens (which is cop slang for normal, good people) can screw up. One is the monkey dance. People are very good at self-deception and will often convince themselves that something they participated in fully was self-defense. Hence, "He started it" is a gradeschool defense, not a legal defense.
The second is when it is over and there is a compulsion to give the bad guy a few more hits to teach a lesson.
So I teach it as an articulation class. It covers all of the elements of a decision making class (and that's a good way to find if the students glitch). The focus is different. A drill for analyzing (and thus articulating) your subconscious decision making processes. The elements of a self-defense claim. How not to talk to the arresting officers without pissing them off. How to find a good attorney quickly. Articulation wars.
It's got to be combined with violence dynamics. You need to understand the significance of what you are seeing and be able to explain that to a jury who may have never met a bad guy. And this is one of the secret minor advantages: For some people if they can explain it to a jury, or feel they can, they can explain it to themselves and that might give them permission to act.