All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days"from the musical Cats
A friend of mine recently called, and it wasn't long before we started reminiscing about some of our training days back when the world was much younger.
On most Saturday mornings for a several years in the 70s my friends and I would get together and fight. When it was warm we would go to Shelby Park in East Nashville, and if the weather was bad we would train at the gym at Two Rivers Baptist Church just across the river in Donelson.
Everybody fought, mostly full contact.
Some days we would box. Other days we would kickbox. The rules would change from week to week, or even during the same training session. We might allow clinching and grappling, or we might include leg kicks. Sometimes we would just wrestle or do a form of sloppy judo. We might limit the techniques that could be used, so that one guy could only use his hands, while other could only kick. Most of the time our rounds lasted 3 minutes. But we sometimes went long, maybe 5 minutes or so. Other times we would do 1 minute rounds or even 30 second rounds. Breaks might last a minute, but usually we only rested for 15 to 30 seconds between rounds. Occasionally we would add rules that made us do active resting, so it was not uncommon to do jumping jacks or push ups or crunches between rounds.
We made up scenario training that we thought was fun, but was actually fairly cutting edge and ahead of its time. For example "Freshman" fighting was where one guy stayed in the middle and fought fresh, rested opponents every minute or so. We also would put one guy in a corner and have him fight his way out against two or three others who were intent on keeping him wedged in.
We did "Ring of Fire" where one guy was in the middle of a circle and attackers would move in one by one at a signal unbeknownst to the victim. We also did "You and Whose Army" where a guy would have to face a line of attackers who came in like the bull on the old Schlitz Malt Liquor ads.
In all of the rounds, hundreds of rounds, countless rounds that we fought we had one special rule: If someone trips, slips and falls, the fight did not stop. In fact, the fighting merely intensified. This, to us, simulated a real street fight where there were no rules and no refs.
Near the end of every training session we would usually do some weapons work. This might be stick fighting, knife fighting with knives made from wood, staff fighting or sword fighting using bokken we bought from an import shop at 100 Oaks Mall. Sometimes we would go stick versus knife, or staff versus stick.
We always finished with specific self-defense scenario training that focused on realistic attacks. We hated prearranged, choreographed training, but we did design certain standard attack/response scenarios that we believed were likely to occur. We figured we needed to sear these techniques into our brains and bodies so that they became automatic responses. We did not really know the term "muscle memory," but we understood the concept and capitalized on the process.
Our training gear was limited. This was due to two factors: We were poor, and we were stupid. We usually had boxing gloves, and most of us were able to get shin guards from a local sporting goods store that was located in downtown Nashville near the high school where I had attended, Hume Fogg Technical.
We bought lacrosse gloves which we used for weapons training, and some of us had football padding. We usually had at least two sets of head gear, wiping out the other guys sweat, but even without the safety gear we fought anyway.
What I loved was the fact that although we trained hard we rarely got mad at each other. We shook hands before and after each match up. We respected each other and gave good, objective feedback at the end of each training session. In fact, we might even interrupt a match if we saw something particular noteworthy. If someone brought in something new that they stole from a book, or if someone stumbled on a cool, effective technique, we would all work on that skill and troubleshoot how to incorporate it into various scenarios.
Training indoors was good, but what we really dug was fighting outside. At Shelby Park there were flat areas, uneven woodsy areas, and plenty of hills. I remember one session where we fought on the side of a particularly steep hill. It was exhausting but really a ton of fun. There was a Cedar log clubhouse in the park back in those days, and if there was no church or family picnic going on, we would go inside and fight on the stairs or in the tight confines of the corners of the rooms.
We were lucky. We rarely got hurt. Sure, we had bloody noses and busted lips. Sometimes a jammed finger or badly bruised thighs or sharp, painful shin impact. But we would just follow standard coaching procedure and "walk it off." It was not uncommon to see somebody with a cone of tissue stuffed into a bleeding nostril.
Of all the training I've done over almost five decades of martial arts and combatives training, I must say these were my favorite training experiences.
I miss getting up and driving to go over and get my buddies.
I miss warming up and stretching and doing a little roadwork to loosen the muscles.
I miss the camaraderie and the joking and the playful teasing when we screwed up. I miss touching gloves before the violence started.
I miss stealing ice from the church kitchen to make a compress for a sprained elbow. I miss insisting on two guys shaking hands when things were starting to get heated up and tempers were starting to get out of control.
I miss coming home with a nice mouse on my cheek or the beginnings of a black eye.
I do not really miss getting kicked in the nuts or getting hit on the knuckle with stick.
If doing is learning, then I learned a LOT. Of all of the great seminars I've participated in, with some of the world's leading instructors, I must say that I probably learned more from just fighting with my pals.
Then Charles Lampshire writes this: "So today I've been thrown down the stairs, had my head knelt upon, a simultaneous wrist, finger and shoulder lock used whilst slamming me into a table, been punched in the balls, had my nose smashed with several elbows, had a scrap in a ladies toilet and even been fish hooked on a sticky dance floor. What a fantastic day! Can't wait to see what Rory Miller has cooked up for us tomorrow."
That's awesome, by the way, Charles. Thanks. But it's the essential quandary. People who like the idea of rolling around on a sticky dance floor gouging, fish hooking and biting are going to show up. And they have fun. But people who think that is fun don't really need the training much. The ones who most need it are the people who will read that description, shudder and say, "I could never do that." And of course they could do that. And if they tried it, they would find it valuable and fun.
But it's hard to explain. "This time we have an office we are allowed to demolish in the environmental part, so expect to get thrown through the dry wall. But it will be fun and safe."
For most people fun/safe and heads slammed into tables don't go into the same categories. Of course nothing is perfectly safe. Including doing nothing.
This is another one I don't have an answer for. Word of mouth, maybe.
Winding up a month in the UK heading home this afternoon.
Maryland and Oakland coming up this month.
Erik Kondo, a friend and one of the CRGI team wrote a draft article about becoming a skilled conflict manager. Everything he wrote was absolutely true, but everything could also be distorted or even used against you, if you only relied on the surface interpretations. I offered to do a riff on Erik's article. Still working on it.
But wait, there's more. We did the first CRGI IDC (Instructor Development Course) in Sheffield over the last two days. It was about the methods of principles-based teaching. In one segment, the attendees created a list of difficult students and brainstormed solutions. They did good on the list and the solutions. But the answers were largely one-dimensional. You see behavior X. How do you stop behavior X?
And that led into yet another discussion of depth of game.
Because you can easily add another dimension to what you see that gives another dimension for solutions. Things happen in time, people change over time. This behavior didn't arise full blown, it escalated. And it could, possibly, be solved immediately-- probably with specific consequences-- or the behavior can be altered over time with different consequences.
And you can add the dimension of mental depth as well. Where is this behavior coming from? What are the reasons? If you teach a non-contact system (though I can't think why anyone would) and a student keeps making excessive contact, he might be an ass who needs to be taught a lesson. Or he might be a kid going through a growth spurt. Or a vet who is blind in one eye. Or a former victim who lashes out under stress. And that's another avenue to fix things.
And there is the solution dimension. Stopping the behavior is only one outcome or one piece of the potential outcome. How will your tactics change if you set your goal not to stop the behavior but to make a great student? In a cop class, you always have the disgruntled guy who was ordered to attend training. Most instructors have some kind of tactic to stop the spread of his or her verbal poison. Since ConCom, my goal has been to get them on my side before lunch.
Last example. We talked about Priniciples a lot in the IDC, as you would expect from a class on Principles-Based teaching. One of the principles I used as an example was structure. Many people, if they can distinguish structure from stiffness in the first place, think of using structure to conserve striking force "Hitting with bone."
And that's good and valid. But it's deeper than that. I think any true principle you can dive into as deep as you want to go. In under a minute, I demonstrated power, unbalancing, bone slaving, void defense, vectors along bones versus angled against, disruption... all just structure. And I completely forgot using bone to rest and resist in grappling or structuring as a defense to joint locks. And as cool as all that is, I know I'm barely scratching the surface.
My game could be much deeper.
And he was not calming down. He kept darting glances over my shoulder, and there was no way I was going to look. You don't make direct eye contact with excited mentals (it can be read as challenge or threat and adrenaline rises) but you give them full attention (read as respect). And if you glance away at the wrong time you can get badly hurt.
What was going on was that one of the rookies decided to ignore my instructions to stay out of sight. When dealing with potentially bad situations, you want the best back-up you can get, but when talking down an EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person-- you know it's tactically important because we have a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for it) if they see the backup they know that you're scared, and fear is contagious and their adrenaline rises.
So, despite specific instructions to stay out of sight, the kid (who was big enough to be imposing) was hanging right off my shoulder. Why? Because he wanted to see why I was so successful at dealing with EDPs. He wanted to see what I did first-hand.
This is a big teaching quandary for me. And research problem. The best way to learn real skills for high-risk, high-speed problems is to model them. You can learn theory in the classroom and you can practice the motions in the dojo, but real world applications are complex on many levels. Just talking to someone isn't a mere exchange of words, there are social, emotional, intellectual and status implications of the tiniest interaction. Being with someone who is skilled at handling problems and watching them handle those problems and maybe helping and definitely asking questions later is where the important stuff happens. It's the safest way for the stuff you learn in class to become a real skill you can apply.
But there are a handful of skills that are hard to model, because the skill is so hard to apply without the emotional protection of privacy. Imagine trying to reassure a mother whose child has just died but start with, "Do you mind if I film this?"
Intersection, here. There are certain things, maybe everything but thinking about it, all the high-risk stuff, where the processing is more important than the event. Something terrible happens to you and it's terrible... but how you process it, how you come to think about it and understand it will make the difference between an incident you soon forget, one that makes you stronger, or one that continues to victimize you mentally for the rest of your life.
And helping someone process a big event is one of those skills that generally requires some privacy. "Let's go for a walk" as you wave the other people who want to help back. Absolute best thing for the primary, but as that rookie pointed out long ago, it denies the ability to learn by modeling.
I don't have a good answer for this one. The best stuff I have for talking people down is in "Talking Them Through." But teaching the skill, modeling... I don't have a solution for that. And it's one of the skills that can be badly bungled-- with horrible long-term consequences.
How many times have you heard someone remark
“That won’t work!”
about a particular tactic or training method?
Here are my top ten reasons why your tactics or training methods won’t work:
- You’re too close!
- You’re too far away!
- The angle of entry/application is wrong.
- This technique relies on a particular attack.
- You’re not unbalancing them enough.
- You’re unbalancing them too much.
- You’re training it too fast (for your skill level).
- You’re training too slow (to be effective).
- There’s no resistance.
- There’s too much resistance!
(11. Because (insert name here) said that (insert advice taken out of context here).)
When it comes to looking at training and tactics, everyone’s got an opinion. Criticism can be a great tool when applied correctly, but before we indulge in its use, we should look at whether we understand what is being done and why. Different training methods and tactics exist because different problems create different solutions. There is no single perfect solution for every problem. (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris)
So before we armchair criticise something from a different system, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether we’ve really understood what it is they’re trying to achieve. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that in the past I’ve criticised something because it didn’t fit the context of my approach, without acknowledging that it was designed for something else. It’s not something of which I’m proud. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make ours any brighter.
Criticising my own training is a different matter. When it comes to examining why your own training or tactics aren’t working, the list of ten above is a good check-list for why we might not be getting the results we want.
Train safely, criticise yourself regularly, and frame your solutions to the criticism positively using SMART approaches.
Written in 2004, this article was first published by Traditional Karate Magazine in the UK in August 2005 as part of my ‘Practical Techniques’ series.
There are many different elements that can combine to make a martial arts technique ‘practical’. Here ‘practical technique’ is defined as something that you would be able to use to defend yourself in a genuine time of need rather than in a sports competition. This is not to say that the techniques that serve well in martial art competitions are unsuitable for the street (since many are very effective), but rather to recognise that the two environments differ. Each short article in this series will look at a training principle that forms the roots of practical technique.
Habitual Acts of Violence
One of the most important factors that all martial arts training aimed at practical self- defence should address is its relevance to the habitual acts of violence (HAOV) common to its locale. The value of having acquired an excellent defence against all the front kicks that your training partners in the dojo attempt to connect with you is diminished by the fact that it is a form of attack you are unlikely to have to defend yourself against in a bar or on the street. Even in this martial arts film-fueled age, most people don’t use effective kicks until their victim is already lying prone on the ground.
The term HAOV is a commonly used derivative of a term introduced by Patrick McCarthy, HAPV – habitual acts of physical violence. Both terms are interchangeable but I prefer the use of HAOV since it accommodates certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats.
If our martial arts training is to have any validity from a self defence perspective then it must address the HAOV that we are likely to face in a conflict situation. It is important here to address the real situation and not the media and film induced perceptions. While it is possible to gain a reasonable idea of pre-fight patterns in your locale by reading the brief assault descriptions (and police appeals for witnesses) in your local newspapers, the best sources overall are probably the statistics compiled by the Home Office. These are usually available through the easy access of the Internet.
A study made by Mike Maguire and Hilary Nettleton, (Home Office Research Study 265 – March 2003), Reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder – an evaluation of the ‘TASC’ project, contains information of direct relevance to all those who would address their training to the threat of alcohol related crime.
Location of incidents leading to hospital visits:
40% of all incidents occurred inside Licensed premises, a further 20% took place just outside. Only 24% of the incidents recorded took place elsewhere in the street.
Assaults: Type of violence Used:
The majority of attacks (46%) involved punches or kicks, while pushes accounted for 12%. Despite the majority of incidents taking place inside, only 10% involved the use of a bottle or a glass. These figures are slightly misleading since they refer to the end product of the event. The statistics do not show whether attacks involving punches and kicks were preceded by pushes. It is likely that punches tended to follow pushes while kicks tended to follow attacks that had already displaced the victim to the ground. According to the British Crime Survey (see below) punching or slapping occurred in 64% of incidents between strangers, grabbing/pushing in 43% (note the overlap percentage) and kicking in 24%. Incidentally these statistics suggest that you are more likely to be kicked by acquaintances (30% versus 24%) than strangers.
Sites of injuries sustained:
The majority of injuries sustained by casualties were to the Face/Neck/Head/Teeth (73%), while only 11% of injuries were to the Arms/Legs/Hands and only 3% to the Trunk.
The Home Office Online report (2003) by Tracey Budd into Alcohol related assault and the findings of the British Crime Survey offers further insights by providing useful information into the nature of attackers.
Alcohol-related incidents are more likely to involve multiple offenders than other incidents. Almost half of alcohol-related assaults between strangers involved more than one attacker. 38% of the incidents between acquaintances involved more than one person (In the 1999 survey detailed by Tracey Budd’s report into alcohol related assault 51% involved one offender, 17% two, 12% three, 21% four or more). The majority of alcohol related assaults involve men. In the case of incidents involving strangers, 90% were men only, 5% involved women and 5% a mixed group. The majority of stranger related incidents concerned men aged 16-24 whereas incidents involving acquaintances were more likely to occur in the over 25 group. Approximately one third of alcohol related assaults involved someone the victim considered as a friend.
One element that we have to contend with from a self-defence viewpoint is a confrontation where physical assault is the by-product, rather than perhaps the sole intent, of an attack. The statistics above were taken from alcohol related assaults, but according to Budd’s report these only account for 52% of all assaults. It is possible to gain further awareness of HAOV by studying available data on robberies such as that compiled by Jonathan Smith for the Home Office Research Study 254 (January 2003) into Personal Robbery.
Robberies are more likely to occur at night, although the likelihood of being robbed varies according to the age and sex of the victim. An example of this is that the elderly and young children are more likely to be targeted during the day, since they tend to be ‘available’ more at those times. According to the statistics compiled by Smith, approximately half of all robberies occurred between 1800 and 0200 hours and half of all personal robberies took place at the weekend.
The nature of the Robbery:
In a quarter of all cases (both men and women) the victim was physically attacked prior to any demands or robbery. Men were more likely to be confronted with a demand as the first point of contact than women (41% versus 25%), while women in turn were more likely to be subject to snatch attacks (37% versus 6%). Men were more likely than women to be engaged in conversation first as a con tactic to establish their vulnerability to robbery.
The Location of the Robbery:
We all know areas we believe to be vulnerable and thus try to avoid. This tendency is not unknown to criminals. 50% of all robberies took place in the street against only 2% in subways, 4% in parks and 5% on footpaths.
In 2001, in an article published in the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, R. J. Nash presented data that had been gathered from a Home Office study group formed to investigate violence within modern society, based upon evidence taken from Europe and the United Kingdom. This article listed, in frequency order, the most common pattern of attacks that were made on both men and women. These lists are reproduced here by the kind permission of Jeff Nash and the editor of the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, Bob McMahon.
Male on Male, Close Quarters:
- One person pushes, hands to chest, which is normally followed by the pushee striking first, to the head.
- A swinging punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, one handed, followed by punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a head butt.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a knee to the groin.
- A bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
- A lashing kick to groin/lower legs.
- A broken bottle/glass jabbed to face.
- A slash with knife, most commonly a 3 to 4″ lockblade knife or kitchen utility knife. (Apart from muggings, sexual assaults and gang violence, the hunting/combat type knife is seldom used)
- A grappling style head lock.
Only one occasion of a well known boxer, caught on night club cctv, opening the conflict with a hook punch to the body.
Offences against the person, male on female:
This data was gathered from interviews with victims and offenders and from statements. Data only covers robbery/sexual methodology and changes relative to first contact with victim ie., venue/ night/day etc.
Domestic violence is not covered as this is a specific subject of its’ own.
- The victim was approached from the rear/side/front, a threat was made with a weapon, and then the weapon was hidden. Then the victim’s right upper arm was held by the attacker’s left hand and the victim was led away.
- A silent or rushing approach was made from the victim’s rear, and then a rear neck/head lock applied and the victim dragged away.
- The same approach as in #2, with a rear waist grab. The victim was carried/dragged away, normally into bushes/alley etc.
- The victim was pinned to a wall with a throat grab with the attacker’s left hand. A weapon-shown threat was made, and then the weapon hidden, and the victim led away.
- The victim was approached from rear/ front/side. The attacker grabbed the victim’s hair with his left hand, and then she was dragged away.
The Most Common Wrist Grips, Male On Female:
- The attacker’s left hand, thumb uppermost, gripping the victim’s raised right wrist. The attacker threatens/ gesticulates with his right hand.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker grips the victim’s right upper arm with his left hand and her right wrist with his right hand.
- The victim raises both arms, with both of her wrists gripped. The attacker’s hands are vertical with the attacker’s thumbs uppermost.
- With the victim’s arms down, the attacker grabs both upper arms.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker’s left hand grabs just below the right elbow, and his right hand grabs her wrist.
These studies are by no means exhaustive and I would recommend that anyone interested in this subject engage in further research of their own. What these studies can do is provide us with important information as to the nature of the attacks that we are likely to face. The techniques we choose to drill should be aimed at countering HAOV:
We should train predominantly to fight an attacker under the influence of alcohol. We must therefore expect a higher pain threshold and select techniques accordingly.
We should consider that attacks are as likely to occur in the confines of indoor spaces as outside and thus not rely on defences that require large leg movements.
We should train to expect 70% of the strikes to be aimed at head height.
We should expect to be grabbed or pushed prior to a physical blow.
We should expect to be attacked by a man in his physical prime.
We should expect a 50% likelihood of being engaged by more than one assailant. Training in percussive techniques should take priority over locks. If your health allows – practice running.
This August 2005 Traditional Karate Magazine article was a condensed version of a chapter in my first book: Heian Flow System: effective karate kata bunkai. The information presented related to research on violent crime conducted between 1999 and 2004. I first heard of the HAPV and HAOV terms while reading Bill Burgar’s work on Gojushiho (Five Years: One Kata) and meeting and training with Bill and Rick Clark. Before that I had focused on researching violent crime and not used an acronym. There are a number of different terms in use in the martial arts and professional confrontation management communities to describe aggressive and violent behaviour patterns. The memorable term ‘Monkey Dance’, coined by Rory Miller, is now commonly used to describe pre- fight behaviours (where humans have much in common with other primates). Some use the term PIA (Primary Initiation Attack) to describe the initial means of physical assault. I prefer the more widely used HAOV since it highlights the inclusion of certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats (what I might call Primate Posturing and Rory Miller calls Monkey Dancing). These are the point where avoidance training, the acknowledgement of flinch responses when caught ‘off-guard’ and your own personal protection strategies should come into play – before any physical violence begins. I continue to use HAOV as in my experience it is now the most common term for the subject matter in the international Anglophone martial arts community. The term HAV is a recognised abbreviation for a medical condition, a form of aircraft and a form of media among other things. HAPV is normally associated with Hamster Polyoma Virus. As a result HAOV is useful for disambiguation.
I’ve been continuing to collate and analyse information since the above article was written, and I may publish that at a future date as it has guided my training and teaching. In the meantime I hope this old data (still statistically on par with modern percentages) on crime in England and Wales is of interest.