Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I can't stand Christmas.  Most holidays set my teeth on edge.  Some of it is the music-- omnipresent, cloying.  Occasionally I can break out of my time and realize how beautiful and sincere much of the music was when it was written by believers and listened to by believers.  That's one of my buttons: when sincere good works get manipulated or, worse, are used to manipulate others.  So the music annoys me, but that's not why the season annoys me.

Looked at one way, there are no great moments.  No big events.  Every tactical operation was a few minutes or hours of activity, but what made it possible was the hundreds or thousands of hours of training and prep and the minutes or hours (depending on what we had) of planning.  That is what made the visible stuff possible.

But that's not the half of it.  Everyday someone got up early in the morning, got her kids off to school and went to work in a factory.  She made my armor.  Someone else designed the radios.  Someone else made the batteries.  The motorpool guys took the truck out of circulation every three months to make sure it was lubed and ready to go.

Everyday, everywhere is a constant mill of people doing the right thing.  And it keeps all of us going.  (As an aside, there isn't enough real work left in the world to keep us all meaningfully employed, so there is a certain percentage of that milling, maybe most of it, that is not contributing, but that doesn't meant they realize it.)

So 'special days' where you are supposed to be thoughtful and kind and caring mean exactly what for the other days?  If I give K a present on Xmas; present and a dinner on anniversary and Valentine's Day...are we done?  Hell no, and we all know that at some level.  Being kind, taking care of others-- that's an every day thing.  Or it should be.

(And, personal rant, speaking as an introvert being nice spontaneously is natural and easy.  Being nice on a holiday schedule I find exhausting.)

The guys who take away our garbage every week have saved more lives than every policeman and paramedic combined ever.  So did the people who designed the sewer systems in any major city.  Good deeds.  Heroically good deeds.  And done every day.  People who are nice every day make the world better every day.  Not just on Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Layered Writing

Multidimensional projects are interesting to teach and both interesting and damnably difficult to write.  "Meditations on Violence" was hard.  Good information, but it never felt organized.  "Facing Violence" was better.  Organizing an introduction to violence around the context was useful and much easier to write.

Violence is one of those things that is dead simple and incredibly complex.  People use violence because it will get them what they want.  What they want dictates how the violence will be used, on whom it will be used... there are always outliers, but the logic is simple.

On the other hand, like any form of communication, violence is incredibly complicated because it is hooked into every other thing.  Relationship tweaks it.  Environment, social milieu, brain chemistry all tweak it.  The magnification you choose to view a situation dictates what you can do.  The more connections you understand, the better you can manipulate things.

Working on the rewrite of the Conflict Communications manual and I am really wishing I could write (or, rather, that humans could read) in simultaneous layers.  It has to build in logical steps from a solid base.  Too much information too early is overwhelming.  Some of it pushes buttons so trust must be gained.  Sometimes you need one concept before you can have the language to understand the next.

That's cool, and that is standard for teaching almost anything.  But I wish I could do it another way.

Maslow is a good starting point for understanding that different motivations drive different behavior.  It is accessible and can be tied into anyone's personal experience.  So we start there.  Great. Remembering to be straightforward that it actually kind of sucks as a theory but rocks as a model.

The second model is a slightly harder sell.  Not to everybody.  There are some people who have experienced deeper parts of their brain, or who have read the right things and understand the concept at least intellectually.  But this has potential to hit buttons or resistance.  Not a big deal since being both true and useful people will get it... but that difference means it comes later.  It can't be the lead-off concept.

But (and this is what is fascinating me right now, not just in writing but in teaching, too) the second concept, once understood, deepens and enriches the first.  Maslow is cool.  Maslow seen through the triune brain model is profound.  And seen again under the violence comfort scale (originally in "Violence: A Writer's Guide")... but there is no way to get people to read and process three things simultaneously.

 I think there are a few books that have to be re-read.  Books that turn into different books once you have internalized the initial concepts.  I think that happens in teaching, too.  Not as often as people think it happens, in my opinion (lots of shitty teachers pretend to be 'nuanced' or 'deep' or --my favorite-- 'coyote teachers').  But there are definitely some things that I knew early and understood late, if you get my meaning.

So, "Force Decisions" Won the USA Book News award for Current events in 2012.  Yay.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Later

Sampling error, cherry-picking and story telling.

In the most recent post on scenarios, I said "There are a very small percentage of criminals who will kill you after you give them your wallet (and the reason the percentage is so small is social and logical.  Maybe I'll write about that later.) "

It's later.

Some background first.  There are a lot of experts on criminal behavior out there.  There are also a lot of 'experts'.

'Experts' first.
The biggest problem is that bad guys lie.  A lot of the so-called experts were clearly snowed.  They were manipulated from the very beginning to tell the story that the bad guy wanted told, and they were either not smart enough to realize it or, more likely, too arrogant to admit even to themselves that they were conned.  They then pass on information tailor-made by the criminal to citizens and other experts.

The second problem with 'experts' is agendas. Not just they agenda they may want to advance, but the agenda that they want to believe.  For most people, violence is big and scary and a lot of people are driven to do something and so they latch on to something they think might work, hope will work, and either insist that it will or create, or cherry-pick research to show that it will.  And this becomes pseudoscience really damn fast.  (Point of Order, boys and girls: Science, by it's nature cannot prove anything. 'Proof' as such only exists in mathematics and logic.  The scientific method is the most powerful tool ever devised for disproving things.  It is the ultimate bullshit detector, not a truth detector.)

Experts, the genuine thing, are imperfect as well.  For bad 'experts' the problems are usually cherry-picking data in order to create a narrative to support their agenda.  In real experts, the problem is usually sampling error and the inability to do real research.

Real research first.  All the anecdotes and computer models and surveys would just be background research in real science.  They would be the data you looked at to design the experiment.  The nature of the beast is that these kinds of research, even optimally designed, can show corelation but not causation.  The classic case is the statistic that the more churches there are in a given area, the more violent crime there is.  Corelation is not causation.  You can jump on the statistic saying it proves religion causes crime or crime causes religion or religious people are hypocrites... but that is all just talking about your internal workings.  The simple fact is the more people there are in an area, the more crime there will be and the more churches (and grocery stores and schools and everything else) there will be.  Corelation is not causation.

In order to show causation, you must design an experiment.  Take a hundred cities of the same size and build  four extra churches in fifty randomly chosen cities from the hundred and see if the crime rate changes.  If crime rate remains unchanged, you have disproven the hypothesis.  If it changes, you have shown it might be the independent variable.  Might.  Nature of the Scientific Method.  Rules things out, not in.

Because of the nature of violence and society, no real experiment in violence and criminality will ever pass a university ethics board.  Which means that what experts we have are basing things on background research of often dubious value and their own experiences, which vary widely.

Case in point, and this is where it gets to the question about why so few criminals will kill over a property crime- I recently read an article by an extremely experienced super-max prison psychologist who stated that hardened criminals will reflexively kill to keep from being caught.  And implying that every robbery should be treated as a deadly force encounter.

Sampling error.  This author (who seemed a great observer with a ton of insight) dealt with a fraction of a fraction of the criminal population.  The ones who had done serious violent crimes.  Got caught. Couldn't bargain it down either out of stupidity, history or stubborness.  Couldn't follow the rules on violence even under the scrutiny of the prison system (you don't get to super-max by singing "Kumbaya" too loudly).  Within that population?  Hell, yeah.  The majority will kill for any reason or no real reason at all.  But that's not normal.

We booked about 40,000 people a year at my old agency.  A handful of serial killers, killers, robbers...and lots and lots of petty thieves and druggies and drunk drivers and Domestic Violence cases.  The majority of those 40k didn't stay very long.  Prisons are so crowded that judges, recog and other programs were looking for any excuse to keep people on the streets.  So most of the people who stayed for any length of time were violent and/or multiple repeat offenders.

Most of the robbers didn't hurt anyone.  Because it didn't suit their purposes.  The goal is to get money (usually for drugs) and not get caught (cause withdrawals are a bitch) and not get hurt (because it makes it harder to do crimes tomorrow.)  If they showed a weapon and you handed over your wallet, you'd likely report the robbery to the police, it would get a little attention, but an arrest would be unlikely.  Unless they found the gun exactly as you described it and something of yours like a credit card still on the bad guy, a conviction would be iffy.  Even with that, it would likely be bargained down.  This criminal will do a lot of crimes, but he'll never see the inside of a super-max, and never make it onto that particular expert's radar.

On the other hand, if the guy shoots his victims, he becomes a very high priority for enforcement and their is a ton more forensic evidence which makes a conviction more likely.  And long sentences. And, if he is also stupid inside prison, he will get to super-max.

That's just practicality, but there is a social side to it as well.  DO NOT count on this dynamic in places where no crime will be investigated or where no one cares or there is no law.  This relative lack of violence is a practical adaptation to this environment.  It is not because the robbers I dealt with were 'nicer'.

So, bring this back to you.
There are lots of experts out there as well as 'experts' and not one of us knows it all.  We all have our experience or our research or research that we have borrowed.  No one has definitive answers and we all have blind spots.  Listen to as many different voices as you have time for.  Try to pick out the agenda.  If a self-defense instructor's answer to all problems is lethal force, he will be cherry picking sources to make that sound reasonable.  Don't sweat it.  Recognize the agenda, absorb the non kool-aid parts and move on.

And, this is huge:  Examine your agenda occasionally. What you want to believe will always get in the way of what you know.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Sacred Questions

I know that there are more, that this just scratches the surface of a way to look at the world, but I know two, and only two, of the Sacred Questions.

What is a Sacred Question?  You probably aren't ready for this, but:  life is about questions, not about answers. Not a single one of your answers will survive death.  The Sacred Questions recognize that.

The First Sacred Question is, "What is the goal here?"  If you know what you truly want, you can make it happen.  If you know what someone else wants, you have absolute control.  But the real goal is almost never the declared goal.  The part of the brain that comes up with stated goals is the exact same part of the brain that comes up with excuses for all stupid behavior.

If I know what you want separate from what you say you want and separate from what you think you want... I own you.  This is the heart of strategy.

The Second Sacred Question I learned earlier, from Tom Brown.  "What is the lesson here?"  There are no successes, no failures.  Only lessons.  And the lessons are everywhere and in everything.

Some Thoughts on Scenarios

This came up in an e-mail exchange, and I wanted to expand here.
Most stuff in real life can be avoided or de-escalated.  If you have been around 100 people today, there was at least one situation you could have escalated.  Odds are you don't even remember it because we are all constantly adapting to and manipulating the people around us.

Violence isn't a normal distribution (Bell curve).  It's a hockey stick distribution.  There is a lot of low level stuff and a very small quantity of very high intensity stuff.  That stuff is rare and high-stakes.

One of the important things in scenario training is to not make the exceptional ordinary.  I don't means in terms of just quantity.  There should be more high-end things than happen in real life... but you should avoid avoidable/preventable scenarios where the role players act exceptional.  That creates bad training artifacts on multiple levels.  In other words, if you (because of role player ego or facilitator decision to get a specific result) don't let the student disengage or de-escalate, when it would work in a real encounter, the student is conditioned not to try things that work.  And pushes them towards strategies with risks.

Going hands-on is never a guaranteed approach.  There is always a chance it will go bad.  If the guy has weapons or friends, then bad is relative, but almost certain.  It won't end well.  The only scenario that has no chance of injury and death is a scenario where no one gets touched.  No matter how good you are there is the chance, maybe a miniscule one, that this will go to a bad place.

In that hockey stick distribution (I'm pulling numbers out of my ass here) 90% of things in the world can be avoided or de-escalated. Another five percent can be handled with a shove and a shout.  3% you
must and can fight out of.  But there will always be 2% where you HAVE NO HOPE.  Wrap your brain around that, because it is a big, bitter pill for martial artists to swallow.  There is stuff that can crush you like a bug on a windshield.  Steve likes to talk about the Chinese army coming over the hill or the shotgun at twenty feet or the sniper.  But it doesn't have to be that.  Any waiter who has ever handed you a steak knife in a nice restaurant could have had you.  There are a very small percentage of criminals who will kill you after you give them your wallet (and the reason the percentage is so small is social and logical.  Maybe I'll write about that later.) and they will do so after putting you at your ease that you played it right.  There are no win scenarios.

So, training corollary #1: If you give them hopeless scenarios, they learn to give up.  It's called 'learned helplessness' and you may have seen it in bad bosses.  The ones who talk about initiative all the time but punish any they actually see.  The ones who must find something wrong or don't feel they are doing their job. And you will see it in a lot of sensei.  If you will get punished no matter what you do, your hind brain learns that doing nothing is the safest solution. Bad.  This training method conditions people to freeze.

_Talk_ about the no-win scenario, by all means.  Explain it.  It's a great place to talk about glitches and values and one of places where I advocate changing the definition of a win (from survive and escape to 'leave enough forensic evidence this guy will not get away with this)  But don't TRAIN no win scenarios.  Don't practice losing. It's not something you want to get good at.

Training corollary #2.  Remember hands on is always dangerous?  It can always go bad.  The five-year-old with the knife can get lucky and stab you... or you could both die or... 

So fighting has to happen when not fighting would be worse.  This is a game of odds and reading the situation.  If you skew the odds in training your students will go into the world with a warped sense of what the odds are.  If you teach them that the wrong things work OR teach them that the right things fail, you are sending them into the world more confidant and less capable then when you got them.
Scenario training ingrains conditioning hard and deep.  Unrealistic scenarios are unforgivable.

Go back to basics.  IScenario training is not about the scenarios.  It's not about style or system or even self-defense.  It's about the student.  Take a look at each individual.  What does he/she need?

The big tough guys?  Test their judgment.  Do they know when it is safe to intervene as a third party or when it might make things worse? Can they choose when and how to intervene at the lowest level?  Or do egos get involved and they try to win?

The little guy who is a great martial artist but has some insecurities?  Put him in a fist fight.  (I have a scenario I stole from LawDog that sets that up really well)

The student who is much better than she believes herself to be?  Throw her into the sudden stranger attack or waking up to a knife wielding intruder.  Let her see what she can do.

 Scenarios are a tool and a great way to cap and integrate previous training.  But don't fall in love with them and don't do scenarios just to do them.  First question for almost everything in life is: "What is the goal here?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I'm late to this.

Tim Bown's book, "Leading the Way: Maximize Your Potential as a Martial Arts Instructor" is out and available on kindle.

He wrote the manuscript.  And then he died.  First day on the job with the Canadian Border Patrol (the real job, he'd completed the academy) Tim collapsed.  Dead very quickly.  Autopsy found him eaten up with cancer.

Editing it was hard.  It's a first book from a brilliant instructor.  One of the few people who ran a successful dojo without dumbing it down or selling out.  Tim could fight and he could teach and his students were good.  But it was still a first book.  And a last.  Had he been alive, the editing process would have been very different.  There would have been lots of late-night phone calls, "What did you mean here?  Double check that, US law is different.  Too much on the writing process."  And each question would have turned into a long talk.  And I would have learned.

Posthumous, the process is different-- make sure the book is all Tim.  But there is a lot of regret over the conversations (and the brawling sessions and the scenarios) we will never have.

Enough about that.  Tim was a premier trainer in scenarios, the best role-player I have ever worked with.  And this book isn't about that.  It's about running a traditional dojo (a lot about teaching kids, which is the bread-and-butter of many schools) and doing it effectively and with integrity.  He covers a lot and he covers it well.  I don't know another book on teaching MA of this quality.  And it will be his last book.  All proceeds go to his wife and daughter, who he adored.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tune Up

Good unwind weekend.  Talk, swing swords at each other, mix it up unarmed a little, talk some more.  Got some of my internal assumptions identified and challenged.  And all bleeding (on my end) was minimal.  Someday I will learn that no matter how much fun I am having, I tend to bit my tongue when I'm smiling and get clipped.  But it's hard to imagine brawling without smiling.

Later, K said, "That's a good group.  I haven't seen people who can play at that level that safely in years.  I might even play next time."  That would be cool.  She moved away from this kind of play when the injuries started stacking up.

At the same time, I don't think anyone else would look at this group and think, "Safe."  But it is.  Everyone involved, whether because they play with swords or because it was a professional requirement, needed to be utterly precise and controlled.  Almost everyone in that room had hurt people, hurt them badly... but not by accident.

There's a friend I haven't seen in years.  Barry is one of the knife gods.  Fast, ruthless, skilled.  And it is absurdly simple to defend yourself from this very dangerous man: don't threaten his family.  That's all.  Like most dangerous good guys he is very, very dangerous in certain ways and to certain people and under certain circumstances.  And outside of those circumstances, you are safer if he is around.

This was a room full of this group.  And it was fun.  Maija is working on a manuscript on deception in dueling.  She demonstrated some and more and more I love the way her mind works. R is a blast.  I love playing with someone big, strong, skilled and ruthless.  And with the control and trust to not hurt each other (or my gimpy knee, got the 'good' knee popped sideways a few weeks ago.  MRI this morning, no results yet.)  Ivy likes playing just to play.  I think E rarely likes to just play.  We have in the past and it's fun but one of the elements of play is that it has to last a lot longer than you would let anything real last and E recognizes that as a bad habit.  So do I, but it's still fun.  Even when I bite my tongue.

Physical part, good.  But the talks were huge.  And not just with players but with spouses.  It is eerie how well our wives know and understand us.  And to be in a group where you can share some of the things that bubble up without people flinching, where you don't have to constantly navigate the minefields in other people's heads.  That's comforting.  It makes a place feel like home, or like the quiet of the desert.  My happy place.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Unnaturally Good

Building from a piece of the last post and from Neil's comment:

"Also, couldn't it be argued that this behavior is related evolutionarily to how many animal species treat the smaller and weaker of the litter ?"

Bullying.  Predation. Abuse and exploitation and even slavery...all are very, very natural things.  Ants milking aphids (or is it the other way around?).  Cats toying with mice.  The new leader of a pride of lions killing the cubs of the previous leader.  This is where we came from.  All of us.

A lot of it is very cold math.  If your tribe is starving you MUST take food or land from a neighboring tribe.  There are only three options-- 1) Refuse to take the land.  You and your children starve. None of us are the products of this choice. 2) Try to take the land and fail.  You leave no descendants.  None of us are the products of this choice. 3) Try to take the land and succeed.  We are all descended from people who made this choice.

If lion 'A' kills the previous leader's cubs and lion 'B' does not then B's cubs start out at a disadvantage. The killers win the darwin game.

And this is where people glitch.  There is an automatic assumption in our world that natural=good.  Most of what we call good is profoundly unnatural.  And it is still good.  Compassion for others outside our immediate gene pool? You will search long and hard for this in nature and if you can find an example it will be because the very oddity has drawn attention.  Natural sanitation systems?  Where is the gender equality in a pride of lions or a herd of deer or any other social mammal?

Do we have gender equality now?  Of course not.  But we have the idea. An idea not found in nature.  And we have decided it is good and many, many people are working for it.

You may or may not agree, but I like this civilization better than the natural world.  I love that I can cherish K instead of thinking of her as a commodity or a 'helpmate' or a gift from her parents to cement ties who could be traded off...

But this civilization, this concept of good, is an act of mass will.  It takes work and effort and conscious decisions every day.  Being a bully is natural.  Even the weak do it when they get the chance.  Exploiting is natural.  People do it unconsciously every day.  Seeing your impulses and choosing another course, a better way...

That is unnatural.
That is an act of will.
That is what being human is all about.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Bullying as Human Behavior

I was asked a while ago to put something together for Bullying.  It's getting a lot of press.  There are a lot of programs, and people seeking more.  I refused.  The simple fact is that the people who want those programs want a magic solution and there have only ever been two things that work in preventing bullying:

1) Not being interesting enough to be targeted in the first place or
2) Being too expensive to victimize

That's it.  Not making friends or telling jokes and definitely not complaining to a teacher, especially in an environment where the teachers can do so little.  Be invisible or make the bully pay.  And no one wants a program that advises little kids to band together and beat the bully up on the way home.

There is a lot of bullshit about why bullies are bullies.  I don't think it's complicated.  Bullies are bullies because it is fun.  The sense of power may be working on some Freudian security issues, but we don't have to look all that deep.  Expressing power is fun.  The perfect judo throw.  Center shot out of a target.  Overhearing people talk about something you've made.  Putting up a bookshelf.  Anything that affects the world is inherently fun.  Including making weak people scream.  We have to learn to get over that (a toddler doesn't automatically know that squeezing kitty is bad and if the kitty makes noises but doesn't use claws, the toddler will continue to squeeze)  and whatever needs are fulfilled, we learn to fulfill them another way.  This is maturity and growth.  But don't assume it is natural.  It is an act of will and rarely an internal act.  We are taught to be kind.

 That's a lead off.  Last month I witnessed a superb act of bullying.  It was targeted, organized and even orchestrated... and not one of the people hurting others for fun realized they were doing classic bullying.  Bullying is not just the strong targeting the weak.  The weak will bully too, if they get the chance.

Can't go into too many details here, so bear with me.
A certain organization had organized an event to talk about a community.  They had done this many times in the past, very successfully and were very well received by people in that community.

Another group of self-appointed advocates for that community demanded to know who at this event were in fact members of that community.

The organizers didn't know.  And you know what?  They couldn't know. HIPPA prevents even asking the question.

The self-appointed advocates (I think I can safely say I'm at least on the fringe of that community and I sure didn't appoint them) started a massive (for this area) e-mail and tweet campaign.  And they got what they want.  The organizers cancelled the event.

Bullying worked.  But it wasn't enough.  That one sign of weakness triggered more vitriol and demands for an apology.  And that's the thing, whether the bully is weak or strong and whether the bullying is done with messages or fists, the purpose is to hear the victim squeal.  To revel in the power of forcing the victim to obey.

And some of the scheduled participants, on their own, held an informal talk anyway.  Because they didn't like being bullied.  And you know what?  They weren't bullied.  None of the ones who stood up.  But the complaints and slurs and bullying redoubled on the ones who had given in.  Bullies hate being defied.

You get the idea.  It's easy to look around and see all the bullying behavior done by people who label themselves 'victims'.  And it works on compassionate people.  It hurts the people who are most inclined to help.  But whatever they say, whether protester or community activist or self-appointed spokesman, it is about reveling in the power to coerce others.

Much harder to look at yourself and see where you do this.  But you probably do.  It's human behavior.  It's also human behavior to grow out of it and find the thrill of power in protecting and helping.  Or so I hope.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hi Again

Over two weeks.  That's a new record.

Lots to recap.

Upstate NY.  Good time.  The groups were small, and that was cool because it gave me more freedom to play and improvise.  The format was new.  Randy and Dave wanted four-hour chunks.  It flowed well, except I sometimes caught myself referring to an earlier block of training that some of the people hadn't attended.  And I've been teaching this a lot, with what seems like few breaks... so I would occasionally want to gloss over things.  Constant reminder to all instructors: Just because you've said something a thousand times doesn't mean your students have heard it a thousand times.

Randy was a kick.  Genuine, warm, really clever and bitingly sarcastic. Perfect companion for people watching, especially when you feel a little mean about people.  He is also a delicate flower and I had to take his man card away when he asked for a decaf pumpkin spice coffee.

Dave is solid.  Former cop, gun guy, and a thinker.  We had a long drive to talk and listen.  Good man. The students at the Rochester event were a mix.  Some had got into firearms because of age and fragility.  That's a viable option.  And think it through, for those of you who teach the hands on stuff.  At what point is it no longer safe to even practice some of what we do?  The handgun is the big equalizer.  But it takes practice and a good teacher.  It's a tool, not an answer and it shouldn't be an amulet.

I also got to spend some time (not enough) with Scott C.  An old friend (old friend kicks in at about four years, right?) and one of the best men I know.  And like a lot of the best of the best, he can't see it in himself.

Finally met Tim B in person as well.  Another excessively self-effacing good guy.  Turns out we both like the blues...
Home is good.  I've been being a hermit to the best of my ability.  Petting dogs, fixing the goat fence and working on a second edition of "Violence: A Writer's Guide."  Should kick ass.

Scheduling for next year.  Which, BTW is now officially open.  If you didn't get the announcement e-mail and you wanted it, sorry.  If you're interested in hosting, e-mail is rory@easystreet.net.  january has stuff in Washington DC and Granada Hills CA already.  Return to the UK in February.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fiorella's Cafe

If I did poetry worth a damn, I would have written some today.
Two long days of training-- twelve and eight hours-- with a very good group of people.  Long talks each evening with Scott and Jason.  Helped break in Brandon's new indoor shooting range.  Not yet open, but the old St. Bernard's range.  It is going to be a fantastic facility, and Brandon has big plans and a boatload of credentials to make something special.

Then, today, on his way out of town Jason dropped me off in the French Quarter.  Showed me around enough that I could keep oriented and he hit the road back home, far away.  (Thanks, J.)  So, a day to walk and explore.  The River Walk.  French Quarter.  French Market.  Beignet's for breakfast.  Jazz in the streets.  And Fiorella's cafe.

Here's the beauty of being a writer:  I can walk in a strange city until I am tired, stop someplace and order food, coffee and a drink, get out my laptop and I'm working.

Today I did my working at Fiorella's Cafe. Kayla in service.  Nice.  Knew everybody.  Talked to people passing by in trucks.  Native but with almost no accent: "My mom was a school teacher and hated the New Orleans accent," she said.  The kind of waitress who is right there if you look up, but leaves you alone when you are writing.  Awesome.  And Yvonne running the bar.  Well done.  Best dirty martini I have had and I have her recipe for a burnt martini...and I don't even usually like martinis that much.  And the fried chicken.  And the red beans and rice. There are some things I love about the deep south.

So, New Orleans.  Nice people, great food.  Going out to listen to some of the music in a few minutes (Smoky Greenwell).  Stupid tourists (one, obviously drunk was doing tarzan yells and challenging women to strip from a balcony-- "He's not from around here," Kayla apologized.  "I can tell," I said.)

The seminar.  Small group of fantastic people.  We got dirty.  We covered a lot of material.  We broke some barriers.  Scott was a fantastic host. I got to see David again (Slovenia and now NO).  Exhausting.  Wonderful.  Amazing how often those two go together.  Lot's of experience in the group.  Lot's of Katrina stories and post-Katrina stories.  Gratifying, in a way, to see the reflexive preparations that people who have been through something like Katrina make.  And sad, because more people should be ready, should be thinking, "Just in case."

It's been over a week since writing on the blog.  A lot of it is because things have been going too well.  The handful of things that might have gone bad have been avoided or de-escalated.  I have little on that score to write about.  Teaching has been going well and I have to guard against complacency there.

Part is business and travel.  Most of October was spent either in frantic activity or exhaustion.  Writing time has been spent on other stuff.  Under K's publishing company, finally put out "Horrible Stories I Told my Children" under a pseudonym.  Didn't want to use my kid's real names.  You understand. Kami did the cover and the internal illustrations.
"Horrible Stories" on Kindle
"Horrible Stories" at SmashWords

Also working on a second edition of "Violence: A Writer's Guide."

And opened the 2013 calendar.  Contact me if you want to host a seminar.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I don't have much of a fantasy life.  Rarely daydream in the traditional sense.  My mental resting state is a half doze where images float across my mind.  Never stories, and I'm not in them.   It's almost like watching clouds change shape.

What fiction I have written so far (and may be publishing, we'll see) has almost all been written because K and her writing group challenged me to do it.

The lack of imagination hasn't always been that way.  Some aspects of early life were rough and fantasy, from fiction to detailed daydreams, were escapes.  And I had all the usual ones: superpowers, swords, spies and saving maidens in various apocalyptic worlds.

When I went to college, the transition from a homestead only one notch removed from a survivalist cell (no electricity or running water, graduating class of six-- and I was sixteen when I graduated) to a state university was intense.  So I can't say college was boring, but it didn't feel complete, either.  Lots of reading, mostly fiction.  SCA.

Always a voracious reader, I first turned away from fiction at Ft. Sam Houston during 91A school.  I was coming off of BCT (Basic Training) and BCT had been intense.  Not earth-shaking.  Basic skills and fitness were fine going in.  The use of time.  From before dawn until late was non-stop movement.  PT (Physical Training), skill development, learning.  Any spare moment was spent reading, studying the SMART manual (can't remember what it stood for) the Common Tasks manual or reading the Bible.  (I'd brought a bible because it was the one book I was sure the Drill Sergeants wouldn't confiscate-- so I have read the Bible cover to cover.  Twice.  Primary reason I'm not a Christian.)

At AIT (Medic school at Ft. Sam) I wondered if I could keep up a BCT level of intensity on my own.  There was a lot of training, PT and studying, but far more free time than in Basic.  So I decided to use the time.  First step was going to the base library and instead of just looking for a fun read, I grabbed a guide book to local plants.  Started practicing tracking again.  Discovered MWR (Don't think we called it that back then but...)

Morale Welfare and Recreation.  I went in and found out that they had a complete lapidary shop.  I'd been taught to cut and polish stones when I was 13 or 14.  Just cabochons, nothing fancy. So I got back into that.  And one of the old guys who volunteered at the place to teach soldiers taught me to cast silver.  I made K's engagement ring there.

Life got as full as I could keep it.  Nonfiction was just as entertaining, but infinitely more satisfying than fiction.  But then something else changed.  About two years into working with the Sheriff's Office, spending more waking hours with bad guys than with my own family, dealing with bad stuff and aftermath, I started to find most fiction not just unsatisfying.  Most was aggravating.  The things that authors seemed fascinated with were not the things that resonated with or bothered me.

Fiction is on my mind.  K wants me to publish some of the things I wrote when a member of her writer's group.  I'll be spending next weekend at the Oregon Science Fiction Convention.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Time for a Ramble

Wake up call at 0330 in Budapest this morning.  Maybe this morning.  I think that would have been 1830 yesterday for this time zone.  Lots of flights, but everything worked like clockwork and it looks like an early flight home... so good.  Tired.  Roughly fourteen hours by train followed by an evening in a hotel before the flights. Three new countries and passed through two more...

Atilla and Armin handled everything.  Each and every detail was handled with care and precision.  Extraordinarily good men.  Very different from each other, but very good men.  And Atilla is doing a seminar somewhere in the UK this weekend.  I'd post the details if he had sent them on.

Thursday night was a low level force class (locks, pain compliance, stuff like that) at the Lower Saxony  Police Academy.  Saturday and Sunday was the scheduled seminar.  Mostly for martial artists, but a quarter (about) of the people who showed were officers (and one I got to meet in person for the first time-- Hi Chris!) and a quarter weren't martial artists or studied only weapons.  And that made it very cool.

Even cooler was the venue that Armin scored-- The headquarters of the Highway Riders MC, Bad Wildungen.  Perfect place for a brawl.

And a perfect juxtaposition-- Thursday night wine and Italian food with one of the senior Academy trainers, an impressive man.  Great talk, great insight.  Monday morning coffee with the president of the motorcycle club and one of his road captains.  Impressive as well, in different ways.  The Prez was an old fighter, now mostly crippled up, did medieval recreation on the side (which the Germans do with an intensity) and, judging by familiar paraphernalia around the house entertained an alternate religious view.  And trained wild birds.

1991, drinking chichu with a reformed cannibal in Ecuador.
2008, drinking scotch with a general heading a foreign intelligence service.
2012, Wine with police trainers and coffee with Bikers.

And every last second of it has been fantastic.

Knee got popped on the trip.  Won't be sure how bad until I can make time to get it checked.  Something else for the 'to do' list.

Meet at Firearms Academy of Seattle tomorrow.  Help them with some research. (Read: "banging stuff out").

Orycon coming up.  Should be fun.

Gigs in upstate NY and New Orleans in November; Orlando first weekend of December.

But, most important, in a few hours home and K.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cop Night

I love teaching cops.
Teaching martial artists I am aware that most of them, from rank beginners to 'modern combat masters' are getting nothing more than a handful of details to add to their daydreams.  A few (and they are damn few in any given class) will need it-- but they aren't the macho posturers.  The shaved headed guy with the tats generally only has to worry about the situations he creates.  It's the tiny shy woman who really had to work herself up to attend who will be on the radar of the predators. With civilians, THAT is who I teach for.

But teaching cops is special, and it is huge responsibility.  You want to teach self-defense to a bunch of martial athletes and you can teach almost any crap you want.  It will never be tested.  Most training is only one step removed from an amulet.  It makes you safe from violence in the same way and to the same extent as your crucifix keeps vampires away.  It's 100% successful until it gets tested.

When I taught for my agency, I had access to the numbers.  Roughly a third were assaulted in one year, roughly 10% hospitalized.   When we changed the training to our new methods, those numbers dropped by 30%, but that was the baseline.  And that's not "1/3 had Use of Force incidents."  One third were attacked in a given year.

There are three kinds of training: Feel good training, liability reduction training and useful training.

Feel good training ranges from the lecturer who leaves the students feeling pumped and convinced they are 'warriors' to the hands-on training that makes people feel safer but does nothing to make them safer.

Liability reduction training is for the bosses-- they can either go, "Can't blame us, you were trained.  Must be your fault."  Or courses specifically designed to lower liability (like concentrating solely on lower levels of force) regardless of whether the system works.

For useful training, you must know the job and know the people and know your stuff.  I've taken courses from people who were masters at what they could do and had no idea of the policy or law that we worked under.  As such, a third of their stuff was ineffective or impossible to apply and a third would get me brought up on charges.  They didn't know the job.

I've seen instructors try to play 'big man.'  It may work with civilians, it may even work with rookies, but there is no faster way to earn the contempt of a room full of veteran cops than to talk tough.  They know a punk when they see one.  You teach different people in different ways.  Adults vs children; pros vs. interested amateurs.  If they don't listen, you can't reach them and they learn zip.

And you have to know your stuff.  Further, your stuff has to work.  Under pressure.  Outmatched in size and strength.  For the big officers and the small officers.

And there is an element of leadership to training as well.  Consistently, good leaders push the power down.  Every leader you have ever had that you truly respected trusted you.  Told you that you were trusted.  And you were given as much responsibility as you could handle.  Being loud and aggressive and telling people they are wrong may feel like leadership, but from the outside we all recognize that an insecure prick is not a leader.

Got to play with some good kids (rookies) last night.  Loved it.  In the rambling conversation with their head instructor afterwards we talked about a lot of these things.  Method of teaching, but responsibility as well.  When your students are going into harm's way, teaching is much more like being a father than a professor.  These are not underlings, but colleagues worthy of respect.  Moreover, someday, on the worst day of your life when you hit the orange button or put out the call, these are the kids that will be coming to save your ass.  You are literally training your own rescue party.  Look down on them at your own risk.

Anyway, I loved the class.  Deeply respected Herbert, one of the head instructors at the academy.  Good night and it brought on some good memories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Hungarian Crew

These are the guys I spent last weekend with.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I’m writing this on a train in Eastern Europe between Budapest and Prague.  Don't know when I'll be able to post it. Probably most of you aren’t old enough to really remember the Cold War.  You weren’t raised with an expectation of imminent nuclear apocalypse or inundated with stories of a shadowy underworld of spies and assassins who were just barely keeping the world from the brink.

Budapest and Prague (and Berlin, but that’s not on the itinerary this time) were staples of these stories.  Messages passed in cafes and beer halls; secret signals; beautiful, seductive counter-intelligence agents; desperate knife fights in alleys; a satchel bomb always ticking down to zero…

Both are tourist towns now.  Big, beautiful (but I am coming to find that ‘big city’ and ‘dirty’ seem to always come together).  Cleaner and less depressing (I am told) than they were under Soviet control.  The business of the day is business and people are working, studying and making connections.

It’s still cool to be here.  One of those childhood fantasies (“I want to be a spy when I grow up”) almost fulfilled.  Almost.  No world to save.  Extremely limited numbers of damsels in distress.  Agents and operatives?  Check, but significantly more talking, eating and drinking than fighting happens… and that’s cool.

So, in the International Man of Mystery qualifications category—
Beautiful Eastern-bloc refugee wife.
Keys to apartments in Boston and Athens.
Metro tickets in the wallet for two coastal cities.
Passport stamps that sometimes get me detained.
Cover story?  “I’m a writer, just in the country to do a little research…”
And, most important of all, some very, very cool friends in some very interesting positions.

Friday, October 05, 2012

RGI Review

I've been letting things settle, thinking things through.  The three day "Ethical Protector" class from RGI was good.  Important.  As far as I know, no one else is doing this.  Jack and his crew are aiming their program at rookies.  Not everyone there was-- actually most weren't-- but this is stuff that lays a foundation for a career free from burn-out.  And that's huge.

Pick any war and most values we shared with our enemies.  Courage, sacrifice, dedication.  There is always a code of honor in some form.  Given that, can there be good guys?  Bad guys?

There is a poster I have seen on line-- I don't have the rights to it so I won't post it-- of American soldiers in Afghanistan taking fire while Afghani villagers hide behind them.  The caption says "Bad guys use human shields.  Good guys are human shields."  That simple.

Are there good reasons to fight?  To go to war?  Yes, but there are bad reasons as well.  RGI has laid out what constitutes good and bad, and it is surprisingly objective.

Most of the instructors are former marines.  A couple, including Jack, were instrumental in the development of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).  But it's not a physical class.  There are a few physical techniques that are simple.  More confidence building, I think than practical.  And two workouts that are killer if you want to push (running, squats with a human body, body drags and the like in soft sand...)  But much of it was ethics, communication and stories.

One of the thoughts behind "Campfire Tales From Hell" was that there is an important piece missing from modern martial training.  Not just martial arts, but police academy and BCT.  And that is sitting around the fire, listening to stories from the old vets.  They know things that can't be really taught, but sometimes in a story, you can understand.  Hearing someone you admire talk about fear and pushing through means more than reading a clinical description of the Survival Stress Response.  There are subtleties and sometimes just some weird crap (intent literally changing someone else's behavior, for instance) that can be hard to process if you think it is new and unique.

So that was one of the beautiful things about the program.  The method.  Exhaustion, education, skills, stories.  For every sit down class there was a stand-up physical class to give a break.  The physical started with uber-basics.  How to stand, how to move and maintain orientation on a potential threat.

The lessons were about ethics, respect and communication.  Communication with the emotionally disturbed was taught by a Registered Nurse.  General communication was taught be a retired NYPD officer who spent a lot of years in anti-crime.  That man could talk.

The ethics part is unique, though.  Powerful.
I've always been one of the good guys.  There is a huge amount of psychic armor in that.  But it is sometimes risky and dangerous.  Not in the 'running towards danger' sense (although clearly that) but also in the, "I would rather quit this job than follow that order-- do I have the skills to take care of my family if I walk away?" sense.  That gets harder if you have doubts that your idea of 'good' is any better than the person giving you the order.  In retrospect, my instincts were dead-on.  But now I have the words to explain why.

And that is the reverse of one of Jack's observations.  Being the good guys, with an ability to explain beyond doubt why you were the good guys is powerful armor against PTSD.  And if you fail to live up to that standard, you know what you did wrong and what you must become and how you must atone in order to regain your balance.  As such, it is less a matter of teaching ethics than of clarifying them.

There are some language issues here.  In "Facing Violence" I used a model taught long ago at the police academy: Beliefs-Values-Morals-Ethics.
Beliefs are the things you hold to be true.
Values are your subjective preference in true things.
Morals are the squishy general feeling of right and wrong derived from your values.
Ethics are your attempts to codify (rules and laws) your morals.

In the RGI lexicon, ethics means something different.  Morals are right and wrong.  Ethics are morals in action.  If you know something is wrong, you are moral.  If you have the balls to do something about it, you are ethical.

Both work for me.

Last thing-- There were a few areas where the training lost me.  And it was just me, monitoring the other students it was some of the most powerful aspects for them.

Some of the stories were convincers, and I walked in already convinced that ethics has always been a part of my jobs and life.  There is a qualitative difference going into a fight as a good guy versus a bad guy.  So I drifted on those.

And pure exertion as a team-builder doesn't work for me anymore.  Twenty years ago, yeah.  Now it's just pain with strangers.  Not the first time, won't be the last.  Danger still works for team building.

I can quibble.  Is the ethical underpinning innate or taught? My opinion likely differs from Jack's crew, but it matters very little.  I think ConCom is better for that part... blah blah blah.

But this is important stuff.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Common Morality

One of the tenets of Conflict Communications is "Work from the common ground."

If you and I disagree and we only talk about points of difference, we entrench.  The differences become not just opinions but identity tags.  The search for the truth gets completely lost in the contest to prove who is right.  It is damn near impossibly to change someone's mind by arguing.  But sometimes you can do it by agreeing.

We all have common ground.  We all eat and think.  You're here, so I can safely assume that you read.  I have never seen someone so alien or a criminal so depraved that we didn't share some common beliefs, some common values.  And, consistently, if I spoke from those common values I could usually (not always, nothing works every time) get compliance, even active cooperation.

In hostage survival classes, they will teach you to 'personalize' yourself.  the idea is if the bad guys know you have a name and a family, it will make it harder for them, emotionally, to kill you.  In the ConCom model, the underlying principle is clearer:

In order for most people to use high-order violence, they must 'other' the victim first.  They must create a string of rationalizations and tell a narrative where the victim is not a 'real' person.  We butcher cattle, swat mosquitos, but tend to fight and struggle (inefficiently) with people.  If the potential killer is in contact with the potential victim, he will drive the communication to the points of difference; "I fuckin' hate cops!"
And your job is to not be othered.  To push the conversation towards everything you have in common, "This is just a uniform.  It's a job so I can provide for my family. (Especially if you see a ring on his finger) What I really like is to go fishing (if you see a hat or bumper sticker with a trout) spend some time alone (if you sense he is a loner, otherwise 'with my buddies') and have a beer (if you smell alcohol on his breath.)"
Get the idea?  That's how personalizing works and why, if you just follow the formula instead of reading the situation, it can backfire.

This is just a piece.  I think ConCom has taken a huge step in creating a functional taxonomy of conflict.  Found the underlying essence.

And I think RGI, in their ethical protector course may have pegged the underlying common ground for all morality.

More later.  I'm tired and have lots to do on my first full day home.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big Question

Just finished the Bujinkan Camp.

Good times, good people.  Largely due to Jack Hoban.  Some of you have heard about my first exposure to the Takumatsuden arts...

"My black belt," he actually hitched his thumb in it and sneered, "Is in Ninpo.  What you civilians call ninjitsu."  Followed by an epic rolling session where the 'unbeatable ninja master' submitted at least forty-five times in less than thirty minutes.  Epic is the wrong word.  "Pathetic" would be giving this young shidoshi-ho more credit than he deserved...

Anyway, suffice it to say my initial exposures to modern ninjitsu were not positive.  But I have since met some good people- Mariusz and Earl and several of Dale's students in SF are damn good people.  I like Don (although some day we are going to have a serious talk about the view from the outside).

But Jack Hoban is something special.  Former Marine.  Disciple of Robert Humphey, who may have cracked the code on natural ethics.  Good (maybe great) man and a good (maybe great) martial artist.  I like the way Jack plays and I love the way he thinks.

Today I heard his theory on PTSD and PTSD treatment.  It works for me, but in the conversation leading up to it there was a gem of a question.  Not about PTSD but about people who are robust against extreme stress in general.  The answer, almost universally, is love.

You can become addicted to the danger.  Addicted to the feeling of reality and importance when you do big, dangerous and impossible things.  But that is only unbalancing if that is all you do.  As long as you come back to the world and put equal weight into loving something or someone who is good, you'll be okay.

So here's the big question:

Of those of you who have spent four hours or more this week training to hurt someone who is bad... did you spend at least four hours being nice to the people you love?

Think about it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Paralysis of Hope

The myth of Pandora's box always confused me.  It made no sense.  After all, Hope was in the box filled with all of the evils and ailments of men-- famine, disease, death, jealousy, anger-- and in order to get the benefit of Hope, it was kept in the box, not let out to infect the world.

Even as a kid, I thought that didn't make sense.  Why Hope included in a list of evils?  If the evils could only affect the world by being released, how could Hope help anyone by being caged?  Dumb.

But maybe not.

As long as I'm cataloging some dark thoughts...

In a drawn-out violent episode, the threat wants to keep the victim from effectively fighting.  In a true blitz, that's not much of a problem.  Close distance, distract, flurry attack.  The victim tends to freeze.  In a longer, drawn out, ugly scenario (think secondary crime scene and all that implies) an unconscious victim doesn't supply the necessary 'fun'  but a conscious victim might well fight.  And so the threat has to get control of the brain.

Not always, and don't take anything I'm writing here as absolute.  I'm trying to set up a specific type of event to examine here..

Teja described it best (and I think we captured her little talk in the "Logic of Violence" DVD coming out soon.)  The threat does a mix of savagery and niceness, making the victim think her only hope is in being nice and keeping the threat nice...and so the victim doesn't fight.

Her hope keeps her from fighting.

And it makes me wonder how many people over the millennia died without fighting when they desperately needed to fight.  How many waited for rescue or prayed for intervention, and let themselves die?  And how many prevailed when they realized there was no hope and fought with everything they had?

Were the Greeks saying that hope is the one evil you must lock up in order to fight the others?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Punishment and Justice and Vengeance

The thing with a road trip is the very long, late night conversations.  Sometimes my control slips or my guard comes down or whatever happens and I see things in a different way, with more emotion than I usually do. More empathy. That's neither good nor bad, just different.

Anyway, M was talking about victims who want vengeance.  Who didn't seem to realize that the vengeance they wanted was wrong, that a bullet to the head was quicker that...

And I got it, in a weird way.

Justice is a hard thing to define.  It's like fairness.  There is one group that says that a fair basketball game is one with objective refs where all the rules are applied to all the players equally.  I'm cool with that.  That's the ideal, and subject to human error, but I like that.

There is another group, and one that seems to be growing, that seems to believe that a fair basketball game is one that ends in a tie.  An uneven score is prima facie evidence that the game is unfair and it is the responsibility of the refs to apply the rules in any way necessary to keep the scores even.

I'm not cool with that.  Not with the power dynamic, nor with where it has to end.

But both are valid definitions for fair. (I'm assuming you all understand the difference between truth and validity.)

Justice seems tied up with fair.  Actions bringing commensurate responses.  An ideal, but try to adjust it much past the 1:1 math of "an eye for an eye" or "blood for blood" of the old vendettas and it gets very ambiguous very quickly.

So we wind up with a justice system and an ideal of punishment that has more to do with the feelings of society than with altering behavior (punishment in the behavioral sense) or any recognizable definition of justice.

And I'm cool with that.  Some can stomach the idea of state executions, some can't.  When the majority can't, those are the rules we follow.  Because the mores, the way things are done, are more important to a society than any particular piece of justice.  Far less cool with it when I'm too close to the problem... but when I can be objective I get it and even when it was hard to be objective that was the job, and I did the job.

My personal belief is to scrap the entire idea of justice and treat crime as a public health issue.  One chance to modify behavior.  If that fails, remove the individual.  Years ago, I read a story  (My memory is fuzzy but I think it was H Beam Piper and it was SF) where the judge said something like, "I'm not ordering your execution because of what you did.  I'm ordering your execution because you have shown you are willing to do what you did."  That resonated.  Some bacteria are good for you, some kill.  As a public health issue, why treat a person who kills any differently than a bacteria?

But the vengeance thing.
Normally I'm with M.  Rapist?  Shoot him in the head.  Quick.  Efficient. Cheap. And never, ever will he victimize anyone else.  And that's enough.  For me.

But, combination of sleep deprivation and the company, I got a whiff of the logic of vengeance and punishment.  Not real logic.  The math actually doesn't work unless there is an afterlife or reincarnation.  But I have heard evil men bragging, and reminiscing about how their victims begged.

The drive (remember this is sleep deprivation talking) is to bring things full circle, to closure.  And that will never feel complete until the perpetrator felt what the victim felt.  Until the victimizers learn the lessons of the victims.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Inspired by Kasey

Violence Dynamics seminar is winding down here in Minnesota.  Hitting the road again in a few hours.  Good and bad.  The debrief on this one will be informative, to say the least.

Kasey got a whole day to teach yesterday—eight hours of strangles, chokes and neck cranks.  Cool to be in a jurisdiction that doesn’t automatically assume that any force to the neck is deadly force.  He’s a good teacher.  Good movement, good relevance, good communication.  And, most valuable to me, he gets me thinking… (right this second, as Marc teaches, Kasey is condensing the violence classifications from “Facing Violence” into a few sentences for the one person who wasn’t here for the whole week.)

But, as always, the blog is about me.  And ideas.  And thoughts.  Kasey triggered a cascade yesterday.  The thought process goes like this:

Kasey says, “I’m a judo guy, and you can do this technique like a judo guy or an aikido guy or even a kung-fu guy.  It will all look a little different but it will still work.”

And that triggers the idea of a plastic mind exercise where you work a single technique, but in the mindsets of different martial arts.  Just to feel and explore the flavor.  Each repetition or series will feel and work slightly differently.
Hence- Plastic Mind Drill X: “Do it Like a (name martial art here)”

Earlier in the day, and playing with the officers Thursday, I was doing light sparring with one or both hands in pockets or with my coffee cup.  Believe it or not, I don’t do this because I’m an arrogant prick or to show off. I do it for me.  It forces me to think differently.  It forces me to be more efficient.  With your hands in your pockets you must learn to glide strikes with your elbows and shoulders and it really improves your tai sabaki.  It also brings it to the next level where the glides unbalance as well and, with practice, gives you a taste of using some subtle anatomical weapons with momentum.

And so, a name to put on something we’ve been doing forever: “Subtle Disadvantage Drills”

“Do it Like X”
“Subtle Disadvantage”

A few more:
Osaekomi (I tend to use more Japanese after hanging with Kasey.  The shared judo background makes for a nice shorthand.)  Osaekomi is pinning.  Pinning and escaping from pinning and preventing pinning are great skill building for one of the hallmark combative skills: Moving a body.

But, one of the key differences between a good grappler and a mediocre grappler (and I will argue, in a real fight, the difference between most people and someone who is really good) is the ability to relax.  To simply relax.  When I did a regular JJ class, we would usually end with rolling, and I would roll with all of the students in sequence until they were too tired to continue.  Not a big deal.  lots of judo, BJJ and a few JJ guys do this.

The reason we can exhaust a class isn’t because of conditioning or some magic skill.  The better you are, the more relaxed you are, the less sugar and oxygen you burn the longer you can last.  And that efficiency in energy conservation, IMO translates into efficiency in technique application.

So what about doing grappling drills and every so often shift the focus from skill building to relaxation practice?  Meditating from the pin.

(I also noticed that a lot of people don’t get the idea of throwing their legs and using the dead weight to pull their own bodies through a turn.  Hard to describe, but useful.  Don’t have a specific drill for it though…)

Acting practice.  We try to make the approaches and set-ups as real as possible.  We want the students to recognize a predatory approach.  Especially how predators try to act like non-predators.  Conversely, in some situations (especially sexual violence with a medium or long build-up phase) the intended victim is going to have to make an approach and then execute a plan…and is likely to fail if she cannot disguise her intentions.  Practicing acting with any build-up just makes sense.  On multiple levels.  “It doesn’t take a good actor to spot a bad actor.”

Elbow chisao- done this more often as a demo than a drill, but why not?  Play with the basic sensitivity of sticky hands and work in the leverage and momentum skills of working the back of the elbow.

Lots of themes, here, and this is just thinking out loud.  Relax.  See opportunities.  Integrate everything.  Transition from your slow thinking mind to your faster, older brain.  Training is not conditioning and what happens when you can improvise under pressure seems to be a different effect.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Beliefs Empowering Evil

Just wrapped up an on-line writer's course.

Near the end, I got a question:

 "...what is your opinion of Ben Bova’s recommendation to authors that their works not contain villains? He states, in his Tips for writers: "In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them."

My first reaction was frankly emotional:

Sorry.  I had a guy in custody who cut open a two-year-old baby's belly with a tin can lid and raped the wound.  Mr. Bova is talking about his world, not mine.

I don't mind emotion sometimes, but it's not that useful.  So:

think I was unfair in my first answer to this question.  Let me try it another way. No one believes that they are evil.  Not Stalin, not Hitler, not Pol Pot, and not some bastard who rapes babies.  Every last one of them has a justification.  My emotional reaction to Bova's
statement was this-- just because some  rapist justifies his actions to himself, that in no way causes me, and shouldn't cause anybody, to buy into his bullshit.  Justifications are not real and the story you tell yourself doesn't make actions good and when people pretend that raping a baby is... "only people with problems, struggling to solve them" they have no idea how encouraging and useful rapists find those words. It does far more to encourage crime than the author can possibly know.

So, let's take an example and, given the audience, the example is writing fiction.  I assume that you do it because you love it, that it makes you feel alive.  It may be the most important thing in your life.

What if 99.9% of the world decided it was wrong?  No-- it was evilYou are, after all, lying.  Telling and selling lies that doom impressionable young readers into believing that there are really heroes and true love and soulmates!  You need to be stopped!

Would you give up writing?

That is how some of the process predators (the ones who commit the crime for the pleasure of committing-- serial killers, serial rapists, conmen, certain assaulters) see their crimes.  The best thing in the world and the benighted, ignorant masses in pure prejudice are trying to put a stop to it.

Others just don't care or grasp that other people have rights or feelings.  One rapist/murderer told me that as a man, I should understand.  He always asked first and he only raped the ones who said 'no.'  Where did they get the idea that a mere woman had the right to say no to him?

A pedophile who didn't understand the difference between his shoes and his daughter.  He could do what he wanted.  That's what 'his' _means_. He thought we (society, the courts...) were completely unjust not to understand that.

There was a high-profile disappearance a while back.  Not sure how much I can share, but her father had been molesting her for a long time.  When the neighbor asked for a turn, daddy said, "I don't share my meat."  Exact quote.  So the neighbor later abducted, raped and murdered her.

One of the most violent felons I dealt with told me, "I just do what everybody wants to do. The rest of you just don't have the guts." The highest-end predators honestly think that they are better, stronger and smarter than the rest of the world.  And they prove it to themselves by doing things others won't do.  It's fallen into disfavor, thankfully, but remember the push to increase children's self-esteem a few years ago?  The highest self-esteem scores are consistently found in violent criminals and if you raise that esteem, you raise the violence.

In each case, these guys will have a story where they are either the good guys or the victims.  All respect to Mr. Bova, it's just a story and it's bullshit and it empowers them when we buy into the myth.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Silly Season

"Here we are again," K said as she took the familiar turn off to the airport.  At least it's not a red-eye this time.  Two weeks home.  Very nice.  I'll be home for a day or two at a time until late October.

Busy is good.

The political silly season is on, and it is a showcase for tribal, monkey-brained limbic-system thinking.  Very little neocortex activity is involved.  If their side says it, it is evil and reprehensible; if our side says the exact same thing it is wise or the only option or...

This has been hard.  I predicted a while ago that as the two major parties in the U.S. become even more similar, the rhetoric would have to get more heated.  If there are no substantial differences you must emphasize the cosmetic ones to keep the tribal lines clear, after all.

I have a lot of very intelligent friends who I both admire and disagree with.  If I ever agree with you on everything, the world doesn't need us both.  But this election season has been ugly.

I've seen very intelligent, compassionate people indulge in something that they themselves would call bigoted hate-speech if the nouns were simply changed.  Hate speech is not defined by the target, but by the manner.

I have read a best-selling author and a good man say that anyone not on his side (not the people who disagree with him, any individual who is not a member of his party) is 'stupid' and 'allergic to truth'.

One, possibly more insightful, did not want to discuss a subject because she did not want any facts shaking her beliefs.

And I have seen fine men of integrity spread lies...and no matter how much they want to believe the things they say are true, they weren't even subtle lies.

So here's some advice from the Conflict Communication model. It might be easier to grasp if you've taken the whole class.
If your monkey/tribal brain is working your human/thinking brain is not.
If you are feeling emotion, you are not thinking.  That part of your brain is turned off.
If it is about who did or said it and not what was said, you are in your tribal brain.
If you label anyone, it is a tactic to put that person  in another tribe specifically so that you don't have to listen to the content.

And one piece of advice not out of ConCom: People who disagree with you are rarely stupid.  If you cannot effectively, compassionately and convincingly argue the other side's point of view, you are the one in your tribal brain.  You are the stupid one.

Stay in the debate, but use your brain.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hard to Systematize

Working on outlining/writing two projects now.
One is the Big Book of Everything, my personal notebook on everything that I think works and matters for self protection.  The stuff I trust and the teaching methods that I believe work best.
The other is "Awareness" coming off of the recent post.

Both are kicking my ass.

The hardest thing about writing "Meditations on Violence" was trying to find a logical order.  Violence is big, probably as big as communication.  And it is complicated.  And every little detail affects many things. In a way, it is four dimensional.  You have to start somewhere and build up to levels of understanding, but each thing you learn changes you understanding of the things you thought you already had.

For Awareness, my gut is to break it into the Four Factors:
The Threat(s)
The Environment

Can't start with 'You' though because until people understand and trust the way I analyze it can be very off-putting to have some unknown schmoe say in a book, "Y'all probably don't know yourself that well or have any idea of who you truly are under stress."  Get a little exposure to the method, and the readers will try some of the drills.

So start with the threat, right?
So violence motivations and how goals and parameters drive the crime. (And that's another issue in that I don't want to repeat stuff I've put in other books, since I hate reading that...but I also don't want readers to feel they are being tricked or pressured into buying a second book.  Yeah.  My integrity issues.) Logic of Violence stuff.
And within that we'll talk about drugs.  All the drugs?  Or general types, stimulants and depressants and hallucinogens?  What phase of the cycle?  Early withdrawals, late withdrawals, high as a kite and steady?  How to tell and what it indicates and how to use the information...
Individual and group dynamics...

And you have to know what to look for (observe) know what it means (orient) and what you can and can't do with the information (decide/options).

So motivations are a part of it, as are thought processes.  As are physicality, from weapons to positioning to reading feet.

And all of this is interactive.  The Threat is continuously interacting with the environment and on some level with you and in many situations with other people-- confederates or bystanders or witnesses.

You and the environment are just as complicated.

The information isn't that hard.  Organizing it is.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Dragon Falls

Just heard that Joe Lewis died.
He was fun.  Great mind.  Great timing. Power and speed in a nearly perfect package (and I met him well after his prime.)  Analytical mind, and a blast to hang with.

He's left a good legacy.  Taught some fine, tough people.
Fought cancer longer than the doctors thought he could.

Don't know what else to say.  The old Dragons are passing.