Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thoughts from Today

The class was working on power generation, using the center of gravity to slam extra power up into a strike or down into a strike. Two types of wave power. One man interrupted. Through the translator, he said, "But I don't want to hit. My reaction will be to defuse and avoid."

Wrong place, wrong time. The class had voted to work on surviving an attack. One of those skills is hitting hard. The defusing and de-escalation part had been the focus of the whole morning. The question was good, in a way, and I had to address the whole class.

There are stages in a fight. If you see something that makes you suspicious, something that's not quite right, you have options. You can gather more information. You can leave. You can prepare a weapon or alert your friends and partners.

If you do nothing, or don't see it until the person becomes overtly threatening, you have fewer options. Leaving, de-escalating, gathering resources and alerting your team are still on the table, but now they come with extra risk. You will likely set him off, if he wasn't going before. You will almost surely increase your chances of being suckerpunched if your attention is on resources or you try to leave when you are too close. You can pre-empt here, and I showed a social pre-emption. No injury, but usually even more effective than trying to suckerpunch first.

But once it's on, once a bad guy has made violent contact with you, de-escalating and gathering resources are off the table. Mostly. By all means yell for help as you defend yourself. But never instead of defending yourself.

By the time you need to hit, it is too late to do anything but hit. And if you are going to hit, you need to hit well. Generally, if you aren't finishing things, you are escalating them.
Context and timing. Real attacks versus sparring artifacts. One of the common patterns of shanking works from a handshake. The bad guy shakes your hand on some pretext and then pulls you in as he stabs you about in the armpit. I don't usually teach knife defense for a number of reasons, if you know me, you know the reasons. But if you have certain jobs I'm willing to show you what I know under the assumption that you will think for yourself, adapt, and take responsibility for your own survival.

The best defense I've found for the handshake shanking is structural. Very quick. One of the students said, "But all I need to do to defeat the defense is let go."

Absolutely right. That's all you need. But that would predicate on a threat, with full lethal intent, grabbing your hand of his own volition and for his own purposes who is savagely using that hand to yank you onto the tip of the knife...and that threat halfway through this fully committed action sensing that you have a defense, sensing that you are applying the defense, completely aborting his own committed action AND doing the one thing that monkeys almost never do under stress-- open their clenched hands.

Yes, there is a simple counter and no, you will never, ever encounter it in the field.

There are a lot of things, especially in traditional martial arts, that work great for real situations but are difficult or suck in sparring. The hip and shoulder throws in judo are hard to get and involve turning your back on the opponent, but in real life people jump on your back. Karate's x-blocks are all but useless in sparring, but they are a godsend when something unexpected and shiny suddenly arcs towards your belly-- a big, gross-motor move that covers a lot of area and gives you a lot of close-range options.

There is stuff that works under close-range assault, and there are options that only work with sparring timing and distance. Do not, ever, confuse the two.
"I don't want to waste time learning power generation because I could never hurt a big man."
Grrr. I've broken ribs on people much bigger than myself. Collapsed a trachea on someone who out-weighed me by over 100%. With an informal survey, we are now at, officially, 119 people who have either used a cup-hand slap to the ear, had it used on them, or seen it used. How many of those 119 incidents have seen the receiver keep fighting? Zero.

Small people can hurt big people. The smart way, of course, is to use a tool. It happens and it has happened. But if you are weak and small, your body mechanics must be superb. And there's no rule that say big, strong guys can't have better body mechanics than yours. There are no guarantees in this world.

But how fucked-up is it to say, "I can't win so I won't try." Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Right now, in your mind and every day in training or in choosing not to train, you are laying the groundwork for your success or you are laying the groundwork for your failure. Winning and losing doesn't happen on that dark day when you run out of options. Winning or losing is something you are doing right now.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Whew. And wow.

It was a big three weeks. All but one of the days was spent either teaching or traveling. Met some great people-- Jeffrey, Alan, Dave-- and reconnected with some old friends, including a slew of Allisons, Teja, Jake and Jeff(s).

The structure and void AAR was the last post. It seems like a long damn time ago. After that it was exploring Manhattan with Teja, and one evening each of talk and hands-on with David Ordini's Krav NY. It was fun, and David has some great ideas for the future. Can't wait to break the toy he is building.

Up to Rhode Island, where Chris Thompson hosted a weekend on how to run scenarios. Scenarios are easy to do poorly, hard to do well, and bad scenarios can do immense harm to students. Not just physically, but programming bad tactics and limiting options. Not to mention the potential for having to deal with an emotional crisis. Two days is an introduction to the mechanics and a heads up on the issues. Hopefully, it's a gateway for the attendees to start taking their teaching game to new levels.

Some very good scenarios, designed and run by the class. Eye openers, as well. A few who fought when they shouldn't. One who fought too late. One who saved a baby and questioned the decision afterwards. The class revealed some good natural actors who will be brilliant roleplayers. Some with a start on being good facilitators.

Three days in Salem were fairly relaxing-- some training in the evenings, lots of talking and debriefing. Meeting with friends (Wes). Found a unicorn. Sort of. My wife has a favorite beverage that they quit making in 2010. I saw four dusty bottles on a shelf in an interesting section of Boston. Bought them all. K is very happy.

Then two days of filming at Jeff Burger's new dojo. It was a blast. A really good crew from all over the area. We were filming "Drills" and the video will be different than the book. Lots of the exercises in the book are internal, or paper. Some require doing questionable things in public places (we did demo one of those) and some, like scenarios, are far too serious and complicated to learn by video. And also remembered a couple that aren't in the book. Fun. Jeff said it will be the best video I've done.

Same time, Jeff was shooting his first video for YMAA, "Attack the Attack." Jeff's one of those guys who should be well known-- extremely skilled and experienced and a talented teacher-- who has always been happy to quietly do his thing in his own quiet corner of the universe. Glad he's finally getting some exposure.

Last for Boston, two days of InFighting at the MetroWest Academy of Jiu Jitsu. I love playing with JJ guys. We have a shared vocabulary (though I think I use more Japanese than they do) and they aren't afraid to fly. There were other people there without the throwing and grappling background, but skilled JJ players were able to keep them safe.

I love infighting! We covered striking at that range, including targets and power generation, specialized strikes and kicks. Takedowns from tangles and at speed. Gouging (damn, I think I skipped biting class. Eh, we had some krav people there. Everybody got bit anyway). Skeleton manipulation offensively and defensively. Locking. A truly great weekend.

As you can tell, I'm late on this AAR because...

Two nights and one day home (40 hours) and I was back at the airport, heading to Zurich. Spent last weekend with a Bujinkan club there (Thanks, Phil) and got to see two old friends (Phil and Murray) and meet a slew of new ones. The class covered a lot of the basics, my basics anyway. Only two hours to look around before things kicked off with ConCom on Friday. Then rock and roll through the weekend (where bruises were distributed, stories told and schnapps imbibed) and out on a train Monday morning.

BTW, I also love being alone traveling and buying food with minimal language skills. And watching some crime crews case potential victims. Frankfurt Rail station was very interesting. And you can get a pork shank at the cafe.

Then on to Fritzlar and Wegas. Actually have some sight-seeing time. Saw Wewelsburg yesterday, a triangular castle with two histories. One was the history of the castle going back to 1600's. The other was a completely separate tour of how the castle was used by Himmler as an SS school and intended headquarters.

Then, and most spectacularly Externstein. Hit it right at dusk. Gorgeous. Should be featured in a fantasy movie. Haven't uploaded the pictures yet, but I'll probably add one on when I do. Stay tuned.
Then dinner in an old castle. Traditional food. No electric lights. A great end to a big day.

Today, more sight-seeing. Friday an evening VPPG in Fritzlar. Saturday and Sunday will be the first attempt at "How to Run Scenarios" through a translator. I think we're using the Highway Riders MC clubhouse again. Which is a unique space. Very cool

Next week teaching cops near Mainz. The weekend after, ConCom and InFighting in the Netherlands.
Then home for a week.
Then Japan.