Friday, December 31, 2010


Unfocused thoughts right now, about edge-walking and writing.
There are people far more qualified who don't write...and there are much better writers who don't have the experiences to share.

Bob Patterson, (who I haven't met) did a review on "Meditations on Violence" that got him thinking about the four years he worked with inmates- be sure to see the posts that follow the one linked. It all reads familiar. He describes it quite well. But he hated it and I loved it. His strategies and tactics sound very close to the way that I handled things... but for some reason I found the situations energizing. I loved being the good guy. I loved being relatively undamaged and able to walk in a sewer and stay clean.

E postulates that there is a subspecies who don't react to adrenaline and serotonin normally, people who heal faster and have denser bones and muscles than others and looser joints... maybe. I don't think I was born a meat-eater. I think it was an attitude that I learned to survive a very specific situation.

Nature/nurture, again. I usually fall heavily on the side of nurture for that one. Not because it is right or wrong, but because it is useful. Human adaptability is probably our most 'nature' aspect. If you need to do something to prevail or survive, you'll do it given half a chance. And like most organisms, humans are essentially lazy. The problem with 'nature' as a primary source of anything (that skills or personality or talents are inborn) is that our adaptable, lazy nature immediately sees the excuse value in that,

"I can be a jerk, it's just my nature." "I'm not really a slob, it's just my nature." On and on.
But force someone to respond as if everything was a choice and suddenly they make better choices. Not a lot of aggressive jerks at a firing range. Not a lot of slobs in Boot Camp.

As I said, unfocussed thoughts.
The year ends. It's just a number. The days keep coming.
Four events set up for February:
Granada Hills CA Feb 5th
Two day event in Providence RI Feb 12-13
Tentative San Francisco 2-day plus Conflict Communications Feb 19-20
Invited to be at a SD group teach in Seattle sponsored by John Darby February 26

Considering putting the blog entries in chronological order, cleaning up the grammar and adding a little content (like a few of my actual journal entries for some of the events) and creating an e-book for each year so far.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Subtle Distinction

It always bothers me when people say, "There are no rules in a street fight."

That's just ignorance. Of course there are rules. At the very minimum, there are laws. If you don't act (and train) with respect to the laws there can be some pretty dire consequences. Unless you like community showers, no privacy and spending time in large crowds of people who are generally either asocial or antisocial.

That's without including the local taboos.

Oh, yeah, there are rules in a street fight.

But there is no such thing as cheating. That's a subtle distinction.

Rules and cheating are social ideas, things designed to keep you at a very specific level of interaction. If you cheat as a child playing games, you won't have any friends. You cheat at a card game and you may lose more than friends, depending on the culture. You might get knifed or you might get voted out of the country club.

Rules keep everything hunky dory in the tribe. The big rules are physics, the big social rules are laws. The rest are just agreements and expectations. Most unwritten, most things we just do, subconsciously, because we have always seen them done. Alternatives don't occur to us. We could just move our little Monopoly doggy to 'Go' every time, regardless of what the dice say. But we don't. That would be cheating. And no one told us that. That is what we, as socialized individuals, bring to the table.

There is no such thing as cheating when you are under attack. You're a good person. You don't cheat. And so you hesitate, not doing things you know would work because you aren't sure if you will violate social taboos. If it's going to violence, guess what? The social taboos have already been pretty much nullified. There are rules in a fight. Please don't go to prison. But there aren't a lot of rules unless you bring them in your own head. If you do, the rules in your head only apply to you.

There is nothing you can do under assault that will make the other kids say, "I don't want to play with you any more! You're a big cheater!"

And you know what? If their idea of play involves a criminal assault, I'm okay with it if they don't want to play with me anymore.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not Bad

Just signed the contract for "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force."  I'm sure the title won't survive, but there it is.  
Wrote another section for the collaboration with Lawrence this morning.  That project should be ready to go in a month.  
Waiting to hear back from a couple of first readers on the drills manual, then that should be e-bookable shortly, with a possible expanded print version afterwards.  Might even give me the incentive to shoot some video.
The Christmas music finally stopped.  I think.  I'm a little afraid to go into town and find out.  I can just listen to the blues at home and sip coffee.
Rain in grey sheets outside.
My right side hardly hurts at all.
Quiet, empty house.
Not a bad day at all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Missing and Action

Read something today that hit me as wrong on a very visceral level. I'm trying to turn that automatic revulsion into something useable.

Many self-defense books are technique heavy, and technique is one of the least important things in a real encounter. Specific techniques fit in a specific space and time, and space and time are some of the things that get really screwed up. That's why, on top of technique being a poor basis for even a decent self-defense read, strategies based on sparring timing just don't work.

The space, the time and the positions are not the same.

Take a striker, a karateka who knows how to hit hard and has the skill to toy with an opponent. Let's make him a full-contact specialist. What does he or she need for self defense?

Maybe some advice on how to use that power, (and targeting, for that matter,) when the threat is behind or to the flank. Maybe with your head twisted back and up. That's common spacing and positioning. Add common timing and you have to act before you can accurately see anything or evaluate the threat. The bad guy gets surprise and compromises your structure and takes up space. He's the bad guy. If he can't do this, he's probably not ambushing you and your resonse probably isn't self-defense.

If you see an attack coming well enough that you can parry and use a strike to set up a finisher... it's probably not justified self-defense. You could have probably used that distance and those smarts to just get the hell out of there.

Yeah. So what should a self-defense book be about?
Maybe how and where to strike when off balance and bound up. Maybe even how to use your own off-balancing. Strikes that work. Not dojo folklore about what twelve pounds of pressure will do or what part of the skull is thin. Show me ten people (hell, show me one) who hit that point and got the other guy good and concussed. If something is supposed to be, according to some old scroll, potentially lethal find an example. Especially if it is someplace I've been hit an awful lot. Does it bother anyone that something I've been doing for fun for twenty years is being taught as potentially lethal and too dangerous to practice?

It goes throughout self defense. Fundamentals are important but the real skill in self-defense shooting is getting your weapon into play with no time or space and preferably without shooting your off hand. Then working the action because it will almost certainly jam that close. What I learned on the range AND what I learned as a tactical shooter are not the same skills a self-defense shooter needs. With very few exceptions, if a civilian uses my skills, they are the bad guy.

Sorry, I'm frustrated. As Irene once said, "What most self-defense instructors miss is the point."

I'll be better when the christmas music stops.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brittle Plasticity

There are some drills that everyone should do but no one should do too often. The kind of boxing that teaches the most eventually leads to permanent brain damage. There are some of the drills where you challenge social conventions, which is very important when it is necessary. People who challenge social conventions constantly, just to feel special, are assholes. Some of the drills only have a valuable lesson the first time. I have a variety of exercises to see if the students are fighting to the goal. If you repeat the same drill, the students will do the right thing, but maybe not because they understand the concept. Maybe just because they remember the answer.

The ability to fight to the goal is based on the student's ability to correctly identify the goal in the moment. Once they have been told what they should have done, they may learn something but many do not get any closer to learning to choose for themselves.

The plastic mind exercises are the same thing. There are variations of them, three 'stages' that I use (though Edwin insists on three-and-a-half). The purpose is to introduce the student to the reality that the self is malleable. That a relatively small shift in attitude or point-of-view can profoundly impact how the student moves, thinks and feels. Sometimes doing more to improve fighting efficiency in a two minute game than the student will get in a year of physical drills.

We know the mind is that important in fighting. Ask any cop whether he would rather fight a 200 pound black belt who was afraid of getting hurt or an untrained 110 pound housewife who didn't care if she got hurt as long as she hurt you.

We also know the mind is malleable. Sleep deprivation, dehydration, protein, blood sugar can all profoundly affect how we think and act. So can the first cup of coffee, or even a good or bad pep talk. We know this, but our little monkey mind feels all of reality shift into terrifying gray at the thought that "I am not who I think I am, the center of my reality, myself, is not stable."

If the thing that senses the world is variable, then the world itself must be terrifying chaos...

Yadda yadda yadda. We know we change. If we think about it for a minute, we start to realize how small whatever stable core there is might be (the old koan of how much can be taken away and still have you be you.)

Working with this change is powerful. Consciously controlling it. Not just finding the motivations that let you slip the leash-- you can actually practice what you will become when that happens. Many martial artists have played with their bodies, pushing limits of strength and flexibility. Then they play at another level, soft or structured and find new concepts of flexibility and entirely new ways to be strong. Right there, they are on the edge of playing with their minds as well... but I can't think of any that expressly take it into that territory.

Even knowing that fighting is more mental than physical.
Even espousing the critical role of mindset.

I can be a bastard, I can be a saint. I can be happy or sad. All as choices, simple choices. And I can be a trout. Or the wind. Each of those choices will change how I move, how I relate to the people around me, friend or threat. How I think and how I feel.

The danger is that something that can be expressly designed to help teach a form of flexibility can quickly become a thing of right and wrong. I tell you to fight like fire, it should be the archetype of fire in your brain, not mine. There are a hundred ways to differ from my archetype, but there is no way to do it wrong. But the minute it enters your head, whether from your insecurity or a bad teacher's words that there is a right and wrong way, what was meant to be flexible becomes rigid. An exercise meant for you to discover and delight in your own plasticity, becomes another brittle breaking point, potentially.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Inherent Conservativism of Combat

If conservativism is a word, which my spell-checker doubts.
Years ago, a guy (who had some dumb ideas anyway), was complaining about how hard it was to 'break into the police market' and how they didn't want to try anything new.

I tried to explain and it didn't go over very well, but here it is: when your life is on the line you want to do something that works. Not something that might work, something that will work. There is no such perfectly reliable thing, so the default is to do what worked last time.

Aside number one: This can be dangerous too, as pointed out in "Deep Survival:" well trained people some times die when they either don't recognize or refuse to acknowledge that the plan is failing.

Your hindbrain is wired that way, and so we get behavioral looping freezes and the ritualistic behavior that Konrad Lorenz showed in his early research in ethology. It almost perfectly mirrors the development of certain tics, behaviors and superstitions in humans.

This makes any change hard. Change coming from a theorist is far easier to dismiss than change coming from a fellow edge-walker, but both still tend to get dismissed.

Another aside (I feel a lot of them coming on today): Mike M was telling a story about WWII commandos who were taught the kidney thrust for sentry removal--just as many of us were-- and told it would put the enemy into shock so quickly that he wouldn't be able to scream. Mike said that after the operation, all of the sentries were found with their throats cut. The soldiers had not been able to kidney thrust. "It was too sexual." Errrrm, I'm gonna call bullshit on that one. There was a lot of Freud in the air back then. Try this: You're a hardened soldier. You get some outsider, probably an egghead, telling you to try this new thing because it hurts too bad to scream. Really? Hurts too bad to scream? And you want me to bet all of our lives on that? Maybe we'll stick with what we know...

The conservatism is compounded when it seems to attack someone's martial identity. The hindbrain (survival) and the midbrain (emotional/tribal) both coming together out of fear of change? That's gonna be brutal.

This is coming up for me now, and I find myself on the conservative side. Let me tell you the story...
Early in my CERT career, I was teaching an entry (irimi) as a counter-assault technique. It was something that I flinched to once when a boxer tried to take me out and I worked on it from there. It's pretty similar to Tony Blauer's Spear if you want a visual. One of the enforcement officers casually mentioned that he wished there was a way to get the same effect and keep a hand on his gun. I'd already noticed that some people flinch differently than I do (my flinch works great for the wedge) and had once used a technique when Stan tried to get me with a surprise chain-punch series...

So the Dracula's Cape counter assault was born. Turns out it's not new, the physical motions are in a couple of Okinawan kata. While I was still working out the efficiencies, one of our enforcement officers asked what I was doing. I told him. He practiced it once or twice. He was attacked the next day and flinched to the position, knocking out the threat. Two reps of practice. Knockout. Surprise conditions. Yeah, that goes in the 'A' technique box.

Got a message a few days ago that one of the seminar students, a very petite lady, used Dracula's Cape to take out a bad guy. One move, laid the guy out. 'A' technique for sure...

Edwin and I have been thinking about some inherent problems with both of my counter-assault irimis. They are straight up the middle. They leave a smaller person in a potentially vulnerable position. Sure, so far every time the bad guy has been too injured to take advantage, but what if, what if...

The ideal would be an 'outside entry' something that leaves the good guy (or girl) in the dead zone on the threat's flank. That's easy to do when you know which side the threat will attack with. Without that knowledge, it backfires a certain percentage of the time. Anything that requires cognition is too slow to be used as a counter-assault flinch. Off-lining will never do the damage of center-lining...

But I think I've figured something out, something that puts you in the dead zone; does only a little damage immediately but sets up a shitload more (but you can't easily condition a complex reflex) and still works regardless of left or right, high or low, strike or kick, circular or straight attack.

But it hasn't been tested. I'm no longer in a position where I can be confidant that I'll test it in the field sometime soon. If it fails, the price is high. We already have something that works and has worked spectacularly (ooooooh, but what if all of those cases were luck, what if, what if...)

Would this be an innovation? Or the first steps on the path of making shit up without knowing if it will work? I knew the answer when I was betting my own life on it. In a seminar setting, this would be betting someone else's life, some one who likely has no base for judging.

All this seems to go on subconsciously in other people. I get stuck thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Many things are kind of coming together right now. Not some big life change, just lots of little pieces and insights and conversations that all seem to be gelling in one general direction: teaching methodology and tribalism and the hows and whys of stuff.

It was a long plow, but I finally finished reading Robert Humphrey's "Values for a New Millennium." I have quibbles, and the ConCom stuff Marc and I are working on puts a huge amount of it into a clearer context... but it is, as Gwenn pointed out, not a fairy tale, but an ethical system that makes sense and may underpin all other ethical systems.

Within that, there is the problem that what underlies all other ethical systems would make sense. What Humphrey wrote makes sense...and there is no identity value in common sense. No tribe says, "We are special because we gather water" they define their culture and identity by what they gather water with.

Within martial arts and self-defense, knocking people down is common sense, but how you looked when you knocked the bad guy down defines the system. Effectiveness is the goal. In my opinion effectiveness is the only thing that matters... but the hoops you get through to achieve effectiveness are the identity, the system. And it doesn't take very long for the hoops to matter even if they no longer get you effective. Identity, especially in things that will never be tested, seems to be the bigger power.

And so, when he got a chance to apply his observations to the educational system, Humphrey's sons had spectacular success with students who "couldn't be reached". And spectacular success did not matter a whit when it came to renewal and approval... because if your identity is tied with a dismal system, spectacular success is change, and the human brain is wired to resist any change to the tribe, even if the tribe is imaginary.

ConCom explains why success will inevitably cause a negative reaction...but will that help navigate and change the fact? Or will it only give us the comfort of knowing 'why' when the ship starts to sink?

Non-teaching becomes described as 'deep teaching.' Or people who trick and confuse and lie to their students until the student rejects them and goes on their own are extolled as 'coyote teachers.' People are told they are taught to be tough and strong while simultaneously being required to bow and call 200 pounds of ego in a fifty pound sack "master."

How many have ever sat back, with the entire system or even individual techniques and just really examined what they are learning and why? Soul-searched to find their personal original purpose in starting on the path and checked to see if the path still serves the purpose? Picked out the things that simply don't work (and yes, there are some things that you will be told or believe that you must do wrong now to know how to do right later... does that even make sense, really? Can anyone name one of those things that couldn't have been taught the right way from day one?)

Have you ever had to unlearn things as you progressed?

Somewhere in this mix, there is the matrix of all the things that make learning less efficient than it has to be.

Here's a paradigm for you: In every martial art I respect, one of the goals is to move as efficiently as possible. The ideal is 'no wasted movement'.

Where is the striving for no wasted movement in teaching? No wasted time, no wasted words. No disposable concepts. Just efficient teaching.

And maybe I'm starting at the wrong end. Maybe there has to be an art of learning developed first.

(Lots of thanks to one of the long-time readers for getting me thinking in this direction today. I didn't want to bring her into this without her permission, since some of these posts that get a little to close to identity issues get inconsiderate...but I'm grateful.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Insights and News

Last of three days playing with a new friend.  Mostly mental, because that's where most of the holes for most trained people are, but some of the physical building blocks as well.  Not a lot of sweat, but a little brain twisting.

Young Nick made a connection today and I want to run with it.

I love martial arts and train in the most traditional of the traditional, but at the same time I am acutely aware of some of the holes.  The things that bother me most are rarely in the systems.  You may not like kata, but I often see things in kata that are ten times as good for nasty shit as the sparring.  And normally, the instructors neither know or understand what it is I see.  Then, instead of acknowledging they don't know, which is the first step of learning, they guess.

When you guess, you are guessing and uncertain.  When your instructor teaches his guess, it becomes fact and an article of faith.  My beef with traditional martial arts is rarely with the techniques, but with the training methods.  Sometimes it seems like a committee was assembled to come up with the worst possible way to teach combat survival and that became the martial arts.

The side effects of this can be obvious and pernicious or subtle and pernicious.  From the instructor who drags the edge of  a knife across his own throat with every disarm to the students that swear their instructor hits without moving, when everyone not trained (or brainwashed) in that school can clearly see him move. (My favorite response, when I asked about this on a forum years ago (as best I remember it): "Skilled internal artists do not use the word 'movement' the way ordinary people do.")  He may simply not have been moving by internal definition, I guess.

The most compelling evidence, in my experience, is being told by one instructor (who insisted on being called a master) that a particular skill would take at minimum a decade to understand... and having another instructor teach it in about thirty minutes.  If you can't teach simple things quickly (and lots of these deep secrets are just super-simple and super-refined body mechanics) I have to assume that you don't actually know what you are doing.  You might be able to do it.  You may be able to lead people in the general direction of the same skill.  But that doesn't mean you know what you do.

After talks about this and martial politics, Nick referred to the difference between mission-oriented and longevity-oriented groups.  Bingo.

This stuff arose in harsh times, and generally were founded by survivors and driven and improved by survivors and people who wanted to be survivors.  Teaching theory was, what?  Memorize stories and motions?  The amount of information available to any specific individual was limited to personal experience and the stories of friends and relatives.

You knocked the bad guy flat and took his sword and stuck it in his neck?  Cool!  How did you do it?

There is a qualitative change when things become systems.  They become tribal identities.  In that instant, the power shifts from the survivors (and those who want to be) to those who want to preserve the system.  A cabal or individual suddenly decides whether a tactic is right or wrong.  Whether it has worked is irrelevant.  People who have spent years in a system are considered more knowledgeable than people who have used the system.  Assigned rank trumps scars...

Maybe not.  Maybe I'm just looking for something to explain how delusional people can be, how fiercely they can defend their ignorance.  The longevity-oriented model explains it well... but a model is not necessarily reality.
David called today.  YMAA wants to publish the "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force".  Whoo frigging hooo.  Parts of the book are pretty personal and I've been really worried about how civilians would read it, but David is an excellent judge and he liked it.

Also he said that in principal, he's cool with me publishing the drill manual as an e-book and then doing an expanded and illustrated version for YMAA.  So the basics can be out in a month or two and the good stuff in print in a year or two.  Best of all available worlds.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I know that in the big things, "Why?" is a bullshit question.  There are no real answers and so there never was a real question.  It's whistling in the dark or a child crying for mommy.  If we only knew 'why' if we could find the reasons and meaning behind the universe...

It's not enough for it to make sense, either.  There is actually a lot of sense in understanding that 'shit happens' is enough why for the universe.  We want it to make sense to us, to have this giant, cold, mostly empty universe have laws that somehow reinforce our little meat animal ideas of good and justice.

So a good man dies-- not just a good man, a kind man.  Intelligent.  Well trained.  Wife and daughter.  Someone I really admired and was looking forward to seeing as he aged and grew and became... I was really looking forward to learning what he would discover in the world.

And I want the why.  Even knowing it is a bullshit question.  There were older, weaker, meaner people.  People without a new baby daughter.  Some people who have done heinous things.  People who never have been anything but a drag on others.  They are still walking around, wasting air, making lives miserable...

Why a good man?  Why not...

That childish desire, to make the world be the way that I wish it, still bubbles up.

Not reveling today in the world as it is.

RIP brother.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Dlshad tasted clam chowder for the first time yesterday, touched the ocean and had a generally great time. The Oregon Coast cooperated with fairly clear skies, a brisk wind and warm sun. Rocky coasts, mighty trees... it was all new and alien and beautiful to a city boy from the Iraqi desert mountains. A good time was had buy all.

Working on a web site update that should include a calendar. February will include LA and Rhode Island, confirmed and Minnesota for a week in late summer. Shooting for New England in August because evidently I have a thing for high humidity. Most dates tend to be a little squishy until things get locked in. I'm sure that's not the case with people who have been doing it for awhile and have a system.

Possible signing at the Powell's Beaverton store in May, facilitated by Mr. Perry...and possibly team-teaching another Savvy Authors class with the same. Which would be great fun, I think.

The current class at SA has a very different feel than the last. Lots fewer questions this time. I suspect it is because the subject (Police policy on using force) is integrated and arcane enough that people feel like they have to go through most of the material before they understand enough to ask a good question. That's pretty true, so the answer is to accelerate the class so that there will be more time to poke at things after the data dump.

Doing a series of articles for Concealed Carry Magazine. The first just arrived. They added some pretty good pictures.

"Violence, A Writer's Guide" is now available from Amazon on Kindle. Just got it up. Theoretically it is also at the Apple I-Book store, but uploading it there was so messy and convoluted I neither know nor really care if it was successful. Muy loot. Kurdish for "Nose hair" the colloquial term for a pain in the ass.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Training In Versus Training For

Sometimes there are profoundly deep misunderstandings when people talk. We assume that when we do similar things, we probably do them for similar reasons, and that’s just not true.

200 years ago, drill and ceremony (marching in formation) was one of the most critical skills on the battlefield. Maybe not for individual survival but for expanding a general’s span of control so that he could give orders and expect them to be carried out. Good drill training won wars, and winning saved lives.

Now that it is suicidal, and has been for over a hundred years, it is still practiced. I would jettison it as no longer applicable and training in things that don’t work is wasted time. But others are not training to defeat an enemy. They are training to be (or create) soldiers. And soldiers know how to march.

Training in a martial art is not the same thing as training for violence. Not at all, and this for years has been one of my blindspots. I had assumed that in the end everyone was training for the dark day when they may have to use the skills. From that point of view much of the training was counter-productive. Some was senseless. Some things were jettisoned that worked in real life but not in play and some things were incorporated that worked in play but not in real life.

And almost all of these deficits could be vastly improved with just a touch of good old-fashioned goals-backward thinking. Study the problem, decide what you are training for and then you can much better evaluate what you are doing in training. Is that attack so patently stupid that you would never do it? Then a crook wouldn’t either. So why practice a defense.

A little forethought and you can really streamline both your training and your personal style.

But… and here is where my blindspot hit. A friend, someone I respect very much as a man and a martial artist pointed out that there are insights you get from dedicated training, things that ‘click’ five or ten years into training.

I agree completely, but (and I was thinking about something/somebody specific) sometimes you get incredible insight into becoming more efficient at things that don’t work. Thinks that have no tactical application.

And that was my blindspot. US Marshal Jones said that in order for a technique to be valid it must have three elements. The list now has four, so I must have added one and I’m not sure which it was:

· Anything you teach must have a tactical use. Reholstering quickly doesn’t have a tactical use. Outside of handcuffing, breaking a turtle (the judo guys know what I mean) not only has no self-defense use but there’s no way to do it without being the bad guy, legally.

· It must work moving or standing still. If you can’t hit hard when both you and the threat are moving, you can’t hit hard. If you can’t put a bullet on target on a moving target while you, yourself are moving, for all tactical purposes you can’t shoot.

· It must work whether you can see or not (and this is likely the one I added, because JJ is primarily a shooter and there are lots of shooting skills that rely on sight… but at the same time he insisted that everything except target acquisition be done by touch.)

· The technique must work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn’t work.

These are classic, and I apply them to my training…but I am training for things. For very specific things. Not just one thing, either. Getting out of a place alive when things go to shit is a different skill than handcuffing. It’s also a different problem armed than it is unarmed. But the skills and training always serve the goals.

This is also probably the crux of the identity problem (not feeling like a martial artist any more) and the ‘martial arts can’t be a way of life’ sentiment.

I’m training for things. I’m no longer training in martial arts. Martial artists do study ‘the problem’ but the problem is not surviving a dark day, the problem is becoming a better martial artist. It can look self-referencing to me, artificial, a little like navel gazing… but it is just as valid as what I do, and probably more satisfying for more people. Without the dark days, all of my time might feel wasted. I wouldn’t necessarily know what was a waste of time. The navel-gazing I see in serious martial artists might well transmute into the fantasy life that is rampant in the RBSD crowd.

There but for luck go I.

Friday, December 03, 2010

One of the Mental Drills

It has been a busy week. Dlshad, my translator from Kurdistan is settling in nicely and making plans for his future. Lots of work on the house. Usual holiday hellishness (I'm not much of a people person at the best of times. Add obligations, consumerism and christmas music and I'm about ready to go into the woods.)

Finished Nano by adding a bunch of unnecessary fluff to the book, then cut the crap out. Need to do a rewrite, have a few friends look at it and tell me which parts suck and then it will be ready for whatever the future holds.

Here's a short excerpt:

WW5 Counting Coup

Counting coup was a Plains Indian tradition. Either through stalking or in battle, young men would show their courage by touching an enemy. It had all the skill of combat with none of the bodycount. This version is a form of urban stalking and you will find that threats, especially young men (aka delinquents) play it all the time. It shows all the skill of mugging but without the legal consequences.

The idea is to get to ideal range on a target, either without the target being aware or with the target fully aware but doing nothing about it.

Public places, especially crowded ones are easy. You pick a target and drift or stalk over to within range. Without a crowd it is far more difficult, and thus more challenging. If you are ready, see how long you can stay undetected in the striking range.

Counting coup on a fully aware target is more a psychological game than a physical one. It has dangerous psychic elements in it that need to be addressed as a safety issue.

To deliberately close into someone’s personal space with their knowledge but without permission is an insult. It is a punking. In some places and subcultures if you misjudge you will have to be ready to defend yourself and it will not be self-defense because you started it.

More importantly, if someone has a weak ego and is looking for validation, punking people can be addictive. I’ve said don’t practice losing and don’t practice missing, because you will do it under stress. Now I’m saying “Don’t practice being an asshole, because you will become one.” And not just under stress, either.

You should do it once or twice, partially to notice your own internal resistance to breaking such a cultural taboo and also so that you notice how few people set boundaries in any way. They expect you to respond to the taboo.

See how that works in an assault? Breaking a social taboo indicates that most social controls are off the table…and yet we expect the social controls to kick in any second. Don’t count on it.

Another layer, common among criminals who don’t have an immediate need for anything but want to stay in practice is forcing. Forcing is used here the way a magician uses it. There is no coercion or violence or threats. You pick a card and the card you pick was chosen for you long ago, you were, without being aware of it, forced to choose a preordained card.

In counting coup, forcing is when you do not approach the target but set things up so that the target approaches you. Look at young men standing too close to a concession stand or slightly crowding an aisle, forcing people, particularly young women, to brush as they pass. Contact. Counting coup.

There are multiple values in this drill. The stalking practice not only lets you move and think as a predator, but the blending will help keep you off the predator’s radar. You find something of your social conditioning. Most importantly, you will see how important social conditioning is to how predator’s work.

Victims are good people. They don’t want to draw attention or make scenes. So they don’t set boundaries and they do put themselves in vulnerable positions.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This is going to be complex.
One of the tenets of Conflict Communications is that people belong in groups.  We are all members of at least one and usually many groups.  Whether that is a tribe, a school, a tradition, a family, a club, a profession or something else.  People don't survive well on their own-- either physically or psychologically.

Groups have rules.  You can call them mores (pronounced moray, like the eel) if you want to go all anthropological/sociological.  A group without rules isn't a group. NOT because rules are the bedrock of social control but because rules are the bedrock of identity.  Dietary laws may or may not have had survival value in the past.  The fact that they continue even when they do not is a sign that their primary value is one of identification.

There is no identification value in common sense.  Any society that survives will value, for instance, trust within the group and productivity.  No society will survive that doesn't value self-preservation (and this is one to look at because what someone says they value or what a group honors, like martyrdom, doesn't actually happen all that often.  The words and the music of many cultures are not truly in accord.)

This means the identity value is in the silly stuff-- the stories and myths and ritual.  A Christian is not defined as someone who is meek and kind to others and honors his parents.  A Christian is defined by the belief that a man-god got nailed to a Roman torture/execution device and quit being dead three days after being buried.  

You can follow every law and rule and live with what people might call perfect Christian ideals, but if you don't believe that piece, you can't be a member of that group.

So every group has mores that are arbitrary if not down-right weird, because those are where the group identity rises.

And this is where the edge-walkers come in.  I can't speak for everyone, but one of the things about almost dying is the way it clarifies things.  Lots of things are bullshit and once you see that, once you see the value of breathing when someone has tried hard to stop you AND you see the inevitability of the end-state of not breathing, your identity doesn't come from labels and rituals.  Maybe, in the end, your identity doesn't even need to be.

So loving your neighbor makes sense, because there is only so much time to get loving in... but heaven doesn't matter.  Heaven is not good or bad or true or untrue.  Heaven DOES NOT MATTER.  The rituals and the myths do not matter.  If I like you, what do I care about the patch on your shoulder or which party you vote for or where your ancestors came from?  If your waiken has forbidden you from eating birds, other than some menu switching, your myths don't affect my friendship (or dislike) for you.

When the edge-walker gets to this understanding, he is neither fish nor fowl.  He does fit into a tribe, in his own mind.  He values what he values- the good works and the people themselves.  He does the right thing.  He will give his life to protect these people, myths and all, and will not feel slighted or ashamed to do it.  He is one of them, on a deeper level than they can probably feel because it is not a matter of ritual and the random chance of birth.  The edge-walker chooses.

But he will no longer be accepted as one of them.  Without the rituals and the myths, the trappings, he cannot be identified.  "Because he serves us and will die for us does not mean that he is one of us."  He hears it rarely, but sees it again and again.  This is the separation, one of the most unexpected and disturbing things if you spend too much time on the edge.


Nanowrimo did not eat my life.  I'm sort of looking for an excuse, but I can't even say I've been busy.  I tend to blog more on the road than when I'm at home.  Must like it here or something...

The book was effectively done at 38k words two weeks ago.  The challenge for Nano is write 50,000 and I'm not sure the book can support that and I don't want to cheat and  write on a second book for the word count... so I'm still expanding with just under four days.  7000 words to go, which is well within reach for one day when I knowwhat needs to go on paper.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list of chapters thus far:


Evaluating Drills

OS: The One-Step Series

OS1: The One-Step

OS2: Four Option One-Step

OS3: The Baby Drill

OS4: Slow Man Drills

OS5: Dance Floor Melee

OS6: Frisk Fighting

OS7: Environmental Fighting

OS8 The Brawl 

B: Blindfolded Drills

B1: Blindfolded Defense

B2: Blindfolded Targeting

B3: Core Fighting

B4: Blindfolded Infighting

D: Dynamic Fighting

D1:Dynamic Fighting

D2: Sumo

D3: The Hole Against the Wall

D4: Moving in the Clinch

D5: French Randori

F: Fundamentals

F1: Maai With Weapons

F2: Offlining

F3: The Targeting Drill

F4: The Lock Flow Drill

F5: Initiative

F6: Advanced Ukemi

F7: Pushing

GM: Ground Movement

GM1: Roll-over Drill Phase 1

GM2: Roll-over Drill Phase 2

GM3: Roll-over Drill Phase 3

GM4: Roll-over Drill Phase 4

GM5: The Wax On, Wax Off of Groundfighting

GM6: One Up, One Down

GM7: Blindfolded Grappling

PM: The Plastic Mind Exercises

PM1: Animal Styles

PM2: Fighting the Elements

PM3: The Other 

IW: Internal Work

IW1: Centering

IW2: Eating Frogs

IW3: The Game of the Stones

IW4: Lists

IW5: Slaughtering and Butchering

IW6: Ethics and Glitches

IW7: To Save My Children

IW8: The Predator Mind

IW9: The Articulation Exercise

C: Combat Drills

C1: Takeouts

C2: Multiman

C3: Break Through

C4: Bull in the Ring

C5: The Reception Line

C6: Scenario Training

WW: World Work

WW1: The Clothespin Game

WW2: Ten New Things

WW3: Stalking

WW4: Escape and Evasion

WW5: Counting Coup

WW6: Dog Handling

WW7: Global Awareness Exercises

WW8: Legal Articulation

WW9: World Building Exercise

 Should probably add an afterword and I'm toying with an exercise to evaluate training to finish up, but this is the skeleton of the work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Re-Thinking, Maybe

I’ve written before that martial arts can never be a way of life, not for me. Then I started working on the damn book of drills and maybe I’m seeing it differently.

Of the nine sections, three are almost entirely mental: Internal Work, the Plastic Mind Exercises and Working with the World. What does this mean?

Some catch it intuitively. I think that Maija and Edwin and Kasey know what I am doing even when I am struggling with defining and understanding it.

Here’s what I know:

I live in a world, a big world full of many things. Much of the world is dangerous and almost all of the world is beautiful. You can’t separate the beauty from the danger. You live in the world and, as humans, we can separate from the world… but we can’t separate from and effectively function in the world.

Martial arts or self-defense or what-have-you may or may not be something you do for the dangerous parts of the world. It might just be fun. But at very minimum, in my mind, it must be something that you do with and in the world. Otherwise it is fantasy and separation. At best masturbation. At the worst, unpleasant sweaty addictive masturbation that you believe is exactly the same as real sex.

So it’s critical when learning this (whatever this is that I teach) that you play in and with the world. That you study the world. And because you are part of it, that you study yourself. Not the imaginary self that is constant and true and good. The fluid self that changes when you are hungry. The one that you become when you are afraid or elated. The self bleeding on the edge of consciousness and the self in the cold dark places.

Learn to see. Learn your own mental plasticity and how much you can control that: how much you can choose, moment to moment, who you wish to be.

Touch the world, taste it, smell it. If you ever need to break somebody, it will be one of the most real moments of your life.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to Read a Book

Asher writes (intermittently, lately) about teaching.  In a recent conversation, I asked him to do a series on how to learn, how to be a student.  Maybe it will bear fruit...

An example:  Once, and only once in my life, did I get a short class on how to read a book.  It wasn't about reading for pleasure, but about maximizing comprehension and retention.

Read the introduction and the table of contents first, then the glossary.  Read the endnotes (all, if they are organized at the end of the book; chapter at a time if they are organized that way.)  If there is a chapter summary or 'discussion questions' at the end of the chapter, read those next.  Skim each chapter noting pictures, reading captions and noticing all words in bold.  Read the sidebars.

Then you begin reading the book.

There is a classic teaching style: tell the students what they are about to learn, teach the material, then tell them what they just learned.  By telling the students what they are about to get, they have a huge head-start on internally organizing the material and identifying what is important.  This system does the same thing with a textbook.

When I was taught this, there was an immediate improvement in understanding, retention and test scores.  And it pissed me off:  Why wasn't this taught in grade school?  Why in the hell did I have to wait for college for a five minute class that improved the quality of my academic life so dramatically?

I want to go in different ways with the rest of this post:

  • What I think all students should be taught as young as possible: How money really works; advanced first aid; preventative medicine; the scientific method, experimental design and enough statistics to know when they are being manipulated... much much more.
  • Other tricks and tips for learning, such as the most basic rule: If you don't know, ask someone who does.
  • Throw away comments or short snatches of information that changed life drastically.
  • There are things like breathing and walking and living that almost everyone does and very few people do at a conscious level... very few learn to do them really well.  What goes into learning to live well?
Maybe later.  Maybe not.

Off to work on the drill manual.

I'm working on the calendar for 2011.  If you want a seminar, workshop or private lessons, contact me.  If you're on my e-mail list, expect something soon.

I did a short talk on Anti-terrorism for a local college Thursday.  Definitely not my specialty.  The good news: I actually have a huge amount of data. The bad news: Almost all of it is under confidentiality agreements and I couldn't use most of my primary sources.

Talks coming up Monday and Tuesday at another local college: one on investigative interviewing, the other on roots of conflict.

Teaching another Savvy Authors on-line course starting November 29th.  This one is on Use of Force policy.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Suspension of Disbelief

One of my close friends is a writer, martial artist, and is exploring some aspects of teaching. After the con we were discussing, as we are wont to do, martial arts, self-defense and teaching methods. I told her of a recent experience where I had declined to do a drill because it had no tactical use. It would only be ingraining a bad habit.

She said, "Beginning training requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief."

Suspension of disbelief is a term authors use. When you read a novel or watch a movie, you have to participate. Not everything will be correct. If the characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy had had 3 digits of IQ, it would have been a twenty minute movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jet Li fight scenes don't follow the normal rules of physics or physiology. Most horror movies wouldn't work without a cast stupid enough to go into the basement alone and too stupid to turn on the light...

Part of the audience's job is to actively ignore the small problems. When the plot holes become too big or the characters too stupid or (my pet peeve) when the plot hinges on the stupidity of characters presented as intelligent (The remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair") the suspension of disbelief is said to be shattered.

Obviously, every member of the audience will have a different threshold.

Check me on this, because it seems intuitively obvious to me and I can't find a counter-example, which either means I'm right or it is too much a part of my identity and is one of my blindspots:

Suspension of disbelief has no place in a valid teaching.

There are some things you will be taught that you can't test right away. Engineers learn the math it takes to build a bridge long before they ever build one. But no place in that learning process will they look at the teacher and say, "This doesn't make sense" and the teacher won't be able to explain why it makes sense and exactly how it works.

If you have to suspend disbelief, if the instructor has to say, "Because it's better this way" and can't say how or (a martial arts classic) you are told that something that simply doesn't work (like hand blocking an attack from a much larger person) will magically start to work after a few years, one of two things is happening:

1) The instructor has no idea what he is doing. He is simply parroting things he has been told but doesn't understand himself.
2) Or what you are learning is fiction.

Suspension of disbelief has a legitimate function in fiction. If you are required to suspend disbelief, you are dealing with fiction.

Like I said, check me on this. My gut says if I have to pretend things make sense, they don't make sense. I am being lied to.

And yeah, I see other aspects of our society where I can apply this rule.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Science Fiction cons, specifically.
Cons are not, obviously, my natural environment. Raised mostly without a television. Don't read fiction (much-- a few special requests from close friends). Not particularly interested in dressing up in costumes and my life is interesting enough that pretending to be a dead guy (vampire or zombie) really wouldn't be an upgrade.

But my lovely wife writes and serves on the group that sets up our local convention, Orycon. So I go and, by dint of being published and knowing a little about things that often make their way into fiction (violence and bad guys) I wind up on panels. It's also fun because I get to see friends (Steve and Kai post here sometimes; Bart is always a treat and a few others...) and meet people.

Secretly, I enjoy being the grumpy guy who doesn't read fiction. Perspective.

I have friends here, but I never feel like I fit in. Very much an outsider. That changed a little this time, and that was a big insight: For the last couple of years, Bart and I have been having fun, talking about shared experiences-- two outsiders. This year, Bart brought a special friend and I found a critical mass effect. Two of us are two outsiders... three of us and I started to feel like a separate group. Started looking at the 'others' a little harder, a little less sympathetically. I am far more polite as an outsider on my own than as a member of an outgroup... Good to know, good to feel.

The 'put into words' award: Sometimes you find the line between person and monster when you cross the line. That never makes it right, but crossing the line once is recoverable.

Experimented with a way to teach and explore violence, letting groups of people imagine/create societies to solve problems...and in the process they discovered ritual murder and raiding; war cultures and war for cultures where that is not natural; brainstormed ways to deal with those who become good at war; and decided how to deal with those who broke the social rules...mostly without losing the person as a resource.

Had a very powerful cognitive dissonance at one point: There is a panel about writing across identity lines. Authors are often nervous about writing different cultures, races, genders and classes. They are afraid of getting it wrong, whether wrong is defined as stereotyping or unrealistic details. The people on the panel were good, sincere and experienced. I think I was on the panel as someone who had spent time blending and coexisting with other cultures.

The moderator cautioned newbie writers to actually talk to people of the group they wanted to describe, "If you don't, you are working from things you have only read, which might be second or third hand from other people who have only read about the problem."

Hit me at two levels, the first is that I think this is what has happened in most fiction with fight scenes and crime and motivations and a dozen other things. Very few writers have ever sat down with a bookie in Little Italy...almost all have seen The Godfather, and other movies derived from The Godfather.

The second is that almost every reference mentioned by the panelists was (with only one exception I remember), fiction. Hmmm.

Good time, met some good people. Some time with good old friends. Lunch with Steve Perry. Dinner with Mike Shepherd Moscoe. Kai, Mark, Sonia, Bart, Nisi and some new friends. A few people seen in passing: Mary Rosenblum, Leah, CS Cole...

Very tired.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Old School

I was listening to a song today. It was a bit of a spoof, maybe but the music is good, the vocals are outstanding (Frankie Laine) and some of the words. the song was the theme to Blazing Saddles, and the words that got me:

He rode a blazing saddle
He wore a shiny star
His job to offer battle
To bad men near and far

There was a time when people generally recognized that there was good and bad in the world. People were raised with enough of a grounding that most agreed on the basic behaviors that constituted good or bad. And it wasn't enough to try to understand or sympathize. Bad had to be fought. Wherever bad men did bad things the only hope has always been a good man or good woman who will stand up and stop them. Offer battle. The bad guy may back down, but force or the credible threat of force is the only thing that has ever stopped someone bent on violence.

I have my personal definition of bad and evil. A bad guy will hurt someone to get what he wants. Evil will hurt someone even if there is nothing to gain. It's simple, but it works for me... until you get into the whiny bullshit that hurt feelings are the same as being injured or that someone not giving you stuff is the same as someone taking your stuff away.

But there I go, being old school again.

Monday, November 08, 2010

First Ever Guest Post

Bad Billy G, Bill Giovannucci sent an e-mail with something he'd considered as a reply to an old post. I think it stands alone.
Bill teaches Uechi-ryu karate in Quincy, MA. He's also a nice guy. And laid me out with a football tackle in an Active Shooter scenario a month ago.

Bill Writes:

I’ve always thought most people were crazy, myself included. I don’t think its because normal is relative, but because 'Normal' is obviously not true. It does not exist anywhere else but in our shared descriptions of the world. People will often define their own reality as truth. Entire cultures are constructed around shared ideals, but they are not automatically true, just
a way to convey meaning. Why it happens in people is explicable in psychology I suppose. I’m not sharp there. What is happening though, is a flaw in the reasoning process. Beliefs take hold without ever involving other views and active world experience. We know people can literally think ourselves into believing anything is true.

Our job everyday is to make sense of the world. We are immersed in it with others like us, but each trapped in our own little head. It’s scary. It is not comforting to be acutely aware of that all the time. We seek to assign meaning, to understand and organize all the information in order to connect and perceive ourselves, our world. We eventually learn to trust our created meanings because it is too much work to constantly evaluate the accuracy and nuances of our perceptions. We fool ourselves into thinking we've figured it out all the time.

Two posts ago Rory got me thinking deeply about perspective in this way. That was a popular post. I think the only way to acquire new knowledge is to make sure you never really believe you know everything about anything ...I think Socrates. In this, the things you are certain of are convictions. They will always be passing your active tests because you have chosen to observe your active experience in the physical world. Principles, because they can be recognized as commonalities, repeated and tested are key to granting advantage to your knowledge base. It is dangerous to believe in something if you do not fully recognize its working
principles. But, the more you can find them the more intuitive you become. It will be easier to understand new stuff, to recognize what is valuable to your Way. You know if it is something to take or discard. You won’t be as inclined to hang onto things you don’t need because you know you will be able find them again easily. Perceptions get sharper.

Learning humility probably helps. We don't value or employ that gift nearly enough. People with a healthy degree of true humility tend to have accurate personal realities and other ambitions than claiming righteousness. They keep from losing heir way, unlike those a bit lost inside themselves without real perspective. Other folks misunderstand, or maybe choose to accept personal and shared ideals as true and never perceive contradictions as even relevant.

There are theoretical ‘levels of understanding’. I forget them exactly. We switch between these as we process. If you watch, it is noticeable and noteworthy that most people never operate beyond a certain level of understanding about who and what they are within multiple layers of context. We cannot avoid it because we need immediate usefulness of casual thought. It is easier than the effort it takes to get out there and think of everything from every possible perspective all the time. And, if we do know to do it, it is still work to construct a belief system based on both reason AND active experience. Also, as with physical skills, it is essential to maintain your perspective to be sure it is has not become irrelevant.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

On the Table

Maija wins the contest.  I am almost 20,000 words into a drill and exercise manual.  I hate it already, but that is just my normal reaction to my own writing.  It's covering some interesting material, I think, and has more mental exercises than many martial artists may have been exposed to.

Gearing up for Orycon next weekend.  It should be fun, and I'll be on at least one panel with Steve, which is always a blast.  I also have two early morning Fight Club solo presentations and I'm working out a new (experimental) way to get people without a lot of history or experience to visualize different forms of violence.  Motivation, context and goo.

Great news-- One of my LAs (translator) from Northern Iraq has received his special visa.  I'm his sponsor, so Dlshad will be coming to live with us possibly by the end of the month.  I'm excited, but we have to rush on converting K's office to a guest room.

Will be starting to put together the seminar schedule for 2011 by the end of the month, basically contacting people who have expressed interest and seeing who wants to lock in a date.  I expect to do a lot of traveling next year... (BTW, if any readers are interested, contact me.)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Johari Window

This came up earlier. I don't know if the Johari window is still taught in introductory psych courses. It's a fairly simple concept.

Imagine a square. In that square is everything there is to know about you.
Imagine a horizontal bar in that square. Above the bar are the things you know about yourself. below that bar are the things you don't know about yourself. There are a million things you don't know about yourself. Some are obvious: how you will act under pressure you have never experienced; things you have never learned to see. Some bring up some deep denial: all the things you think are cool but annoy others; all the times you are playing to an imaginary audience as you interact in life.
Imagine a vertical line in the square. All the things on the left are the things that others know about you. All the things on the right of the line are the things that they do not know. You deeper dreams and fantasies and history and...

It is important to realize that others know things about you that you do not. Who you think we see and who we actually see are not the same and often the person on the outside sees more accurately. the one on the outside doesn't see the voices in our heads making excuses and creating false explanations and rationalizations. They just see what we do.

So the window divides into four quarters, the relative size of each section different for each person:

The things that only we know about ourselves.
The things that everyone knows.
The things that others know and we do not.
The things that no one knows.

On that level, the quest in life is the same: to open the window and see as much about ourselves as possible. We can't see our own blindspots and it is only through friends (or sometimes enemies) that tell us what they see that we get anywhere on our quest.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Loving and Caring

I've looked for this story off an on for years.  It was right on the edge of the internet age, something I read in the local paper.  It disturbed me much at the time and still does.

Police were called to an apartment somewhere in the metro Portland area.  Neighbors had noticed a smell.  In the apartment they found a baby, maybe two years old, wearing a disposable diaper packed with waste.  Bowls of milk and stale peanut butter sandwiches were on the floor.

The mother, it seems, was afraid her new boyfriend would leave her if he found out she had a child.  So she didn't tell him and when they went away for a weekend or a week, she would put out bowls of milk and plates of sandwiches.  And put on a clean diaper.

She was indignant that she was charged with child neglect, even more indignant at people who said she didn't love her baby.  As near as I can remember she said, "Of course I love my baby.  Anyone who has seen us together will see that!"

I'm going to make a value judgment here: Immature people confuse their feelings with the world.  And feel that the feelings are more important than the physical world.  You feel a swelling chest and your throat gets dry when you see your main squeeze.  Must be true love, so it's okay if you slap her around occasionally. Bullshit.

Feeling good doesn't make an action good.  People who feel pretty damn good about themselves (anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders, for example) leave trails of broken hearts or broken bodies behind them.

It hit me hard in New York City.  Everyone I talked to loved the The City.  They gushed about it.  They told me all the ways it was wonderful.  

Not once did I see a single person, except for me, pick up some trash.  It may be wonderful, but it was filthy, with people throwing bales of advertising leaflets to the wind and puking in the streets.  A lot of people expressing love, no one showing simple caring.  Is it really love if it never involves lifting a finger to help?  Or is it the natural self-centerdness of people who can feel their emotions and decide the feeling is enough.  "I feel love, so I don't need to express it."

Thoughts tangle here-- people who have never volunteered to help in a major disaster but need therapy for that disaster, even though they weren't there and knew no one who was.  People who express a rage about a group or political party, but they express a rage about the other's rage that they only imagine, sublimely showing that they are, at a very deep level, what they claim the other to be.  Is it their righteousness that makes their animosity and bigotry acceptable in their own minds?  Or do they simply not see it?  People who want to be loved and appreciated and feel oppressed when asked what they have ever done that is worthy of appreciation...

Dark thoughts, perhaps.

Self esteem, self love, increases violence in people who are already violent.  Of course, the counter argument is that high self-esteem that increases violence isn't self-esteem at all but narcissism. Tomayto, tomahto.

Monday, November 01, 2010

November 2010

This is looking to be the quietest month in some time.

I'll be at Orycon 32 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, OR November 12-14, mostly doing panels for writers but with some play time.  I'm going to experiment with a new format for getting people who live largely in their heads to envision different types of violence and play with the physical aspects.

There will be another Savvy Authors class on-line, this one on Police Force Policies.  It will draw heavily from a book under consideration at my publisher right now.

Other than that, I'm free.  Which means some relaxing home time.  It also means I'm more available than ever for private lessons and local workshops.  I like doing nothing, but I really prefer doing something.
Enough with the business end.  This is the kind of stuff I think about on long drives:

Poetry involves tweaking grammar and convention so that the lines have patterns.  The patterns reflect or complement each other.  This is meter, and it is one of the artistic pleasures of reading poetry.

Rhyming is arranging the poem so that the last syllable(s) of the words in each line or in a specific pattern of lines sound the same.  Alliteration is starting each word with the same sound.

Do people born deaf catch these aspects when they read poetry?  When someone's native language is sign, is there an equivalent art like choosing words where the right hand is in a particular position or location at the end of a line (visual rhyming?) Or tweaking the grammar so that there is a rhythmic visual pattern (meter)?

I don't know anyone who was born unable to hear... and I would love to ask these questions.  That would be a fascinating conversation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Steve's Street Cred

Steve posted on his blog and I got contacted, blah, blah, blah... Steve and I thought it would be good to use it as a jumping off point for some thoughts. The italic stuff will be mine, the regular text is Steve's original post.

Right off, this isn't a debate or an argument. Like any two people, Steve and I see things differently. We also guess about what the other sees, feels or means. There is a lot of potential for learning in the gap between what the guy outside and the guy inside the skin see.

A bit more on the violence thing. Most of you here will assume that when I post such things about the reality guys, I am talking about Rory Miller and Mac and the other hardcore dudes like that.

You're right. I am. But it's not meant to be derogatory when I offer it.
And I know this. Steve understands and respects differences in perspective. I don't think he could write convincingly if he didn't

A couple thoughts to clarify things ...

I like Rory, and I believe what he teaches is valid and valuable. I've reviewed all his books, given them raves.
This is mutual...except for the valid and valuable, since Steve writes fiction after all... (joke).

I also believe that what he teaches is mostly geared for, and aimed at, people who are apt to find themselves in scuffles regularly. It's from and for people whodeliberately put themselves in harm's way. Soldiers, cops, bouncers, folks who go forward knowing things are about to get active.

No. Not at all. And this is a huge disconnect. The hard-core operators know this stuff. According to e-mails, what they really get from my work is 1) a feeling that someone else 'gets it'. Even within the operator world, it can get pretty isolated. You can be a qualified operator and never be activated. You can be activated and never see trouble...and some people, through luck or inclination or whatever see a lot, and it makes them think. there's comfort when you find other people are thinking the same things.
2) I seem to put things into words that they know on a gut level, and that's comforting too and
3) The words make it easier to teach to rookies.
But pretty much by definition, if I blow someone's mind, they weren't an operator.

As Rory has been all those things and has not-walked-but-run into the room as the shit hit the fan, I might be excused for thinking that's where he likes to play. I think he gets bored if somebody is not shooting at him -- and barely missing.

He has specialized knowledge, worth diamonds to people who need it. As he points out, he does violence for money.

That's a long way from where most of us live. It colors one's world.
Absolutely. I'm not sure if this is the place to express it, but there is no way to get the cumulative experience of violence while living a peaceful life. It does color my world. But the people who won't experience it more than once or twice in their lives will never get the underlying factors, will never even get the adrenaline under control enough to see what happens in so few encounters. Someone who has had sex a hundred times just understands it better than someone who has only had sex once. And way better than someone who has only fantasized about it. It doesn't mean that the lessons can only be understood by gigolos and hookers.

We want him on the wall. We need him on the wall. But on one level, I get the sense that he mostly wants to swap stuff with the other guys on the wall. (You might can add serious martial artists to the teaching pool, in that they are willing to pug in practice, and thus aren't completely against the idea of thumping or sticking somebody, should the need arise. People who could never hurt a fellow human being even in defense of their own lives don't seem to be good candidates for reality fighting.)
Absolutely true... for me. Because I get my learning from other guys who have been there. I really can't learn anything useful from someone who has only imagined my world. So, absolutely, I prefer to spend time with operators. Experienced martial artists, not so much. This may be my perspective but many of the 'experienced' are so choked with delusion that it is almost detrimental to talk to them. Back to the sex analogy, collecting belts or collecting porn aren't that much difference. Thirty years of memorizing centerfolds still isn't having sex. (man, I am going to get so many hits for this post off of perverts doing google searches). There are some exceptions, pure martial artists who can improve my body mechanics, but they are damn few.

When he's talking to guys like me, chair-sitters old enough to be his father, or people who hike a long detour to avoid the mean streets, he has to dial it down. We need to know about it, to be sure. We might need some of it someday, and it'll be worth diamonds if we do. But "might" and "surely will" are two different horses.
This is another disconnect, cause when things go bad it gets binary very fast. If you have basic common sense, you probably won't need it, but if you do (home invasion, workplace shooting, Bonding GMD) you will need it all, and probably at a level greater than I do. For me it is a surely. For civilians, it is a possibly... but if the civilian needs it the stakes and the obstacles will both be astronomical. There is no middle ground here.

Big attitude change from "this might happen" to "whenthis happens 'cause it's gonna."
And that creates an incentive to train smarter, (or, if you want to look at it this way) allows civilians to train stupid and it won't matter a lick...until it kills one or two.

Here's where I keep coming down to it: I can't tell you what it's like to be a soldier, cop, or bouncer, because I've never been one.

I think it's hard for Rory to tell you what it's like to be a civilian, because he's never been one.
Sounds cool, but nope. One of the neat things about our society is that there are no castes. Every cop has been a citizen. Every soldier has at least been a high school student. I was the shy science nerd. Mac was the hippie studying library science at Maharishi Mahesh University. We all, at one point, had our first fights. My training was world-class...and I was largely unprepared. What I do with my teaching, is to try to let people in on the stuff that I didn't get from martial training. The holes that left me unprepared. It is a huge list.
So my classes aren't mostly composed of cops and soldiers. There are a few and I think it has more to do with camaraderie than anything. But the majority are what you call serious martial artists who are just coming to terms with the fact that they know almost nothing about violence. They have spent decades honing a tool to be used if they are ever faced with violence, and they don't know what an assault looks like, or how to see one coming or what the opponents and attacks they will have to defend against even look like. How do criminals get you alone? How is a knife really used? How does a predator find out where to set up his ambush? What's the fastest way to tell a dominance game from a predatory interview? How do criminals get you to lower your guard? What does it feel like to kill or cripple another human? Why do so many people freeze and what can you do? What does adrenaline really do and how do you compensate for it?

So many questions and most people go their whole martial career and never ask them. That's what I do. Cops know this stuff.