Wednesday, August 16, 2017

into the fray

Okay-dokey. There's a whole lot of angry and binary and positioning going on right now. It is impacting a lot of different stuff like politics and history and human rights and freedom of speech and...

Is the U.S. on the brink of a new type of civil war? What's the real issue with Charlotsville; freedom of speech? hate crimes? terrorism? the beginning of a new Hitleresque regime on the rise? Do we tear down all the historical monuments from the history of the U.S. Civil War? Do we tear down the pyramids in Egypt because they were built on the backs of slavery?  And then there's Trump's response pointing his finger at both sides and the backlash that he didn't condemn the white supremacists.

At a sociological level this is twisty and complex. At a human level, there isn't anything complex about it.

Any time we see, feel, experience or believe Power is a binary, closed percentage proposition we are fucked. If you get an entire generation of children to believe 2 apples and 2 oranges = 10
Almonds and the numeral 10 comes to mean those 2 apples and 2 oranges as a new concept and you rewrite the dictionaries to change the meaning of the words so they match, there are still 2 apples and 2 oranges on the table, not 10 almonds. If we try to solve math equations with this new interpretation and we bend the numbers and our definitions of reality to make it work - it is still inaccurate and the solutions we create will be skewed and ineffective. The skewed solutions will eventually breakdown because there are just some things that can not survive the test of raw reality.

Trying to solve battles for power by dividing one pie and allocating the pieces to an infinite number of human beings is always, eventually going to break down.

Power is not a finite equation and is not binary. If I have some, you do not have less. Everything we believe about our power or lack thereof has been taught/learned.  We can get super existential even and think about what Frankyl said in Logo therapy and his experiences from the Nazi Concentration camps - he was kinda' powerless when he was interned .... or so it would appear. But he came out of it with theories about being human that eviscerated a binary and finite orientation to power.

One of the things he discovered was humans in the concentration camps had basically two relationships with the food...ummm....well, what passed as food.  People would risk their lives to hoard what little they were given in case they needed it later. Other people would give their portion up to a sick(er) detainee when in need. The latter group lived longer. Tended to be more resilient. Weird, huh? Give away your meager portions once-in-a-while and you live longer? What?

When you feel like someone has power over you, it is because at some level you have surrendered a degree of it. When you feel like you have to drive your car through a crowd of people you hate, they rule you. Yes, you may kill and injure some of them and that sure as hell looks like you have more power than they do. Look, I do this too. We are deeply socially programmed to see power as an equation with a finite numerical product.

There are experiences that inform beliefs I have and those experiences can argue deeply about power differentials 80/20 etc. Moments in which I did not have the necessary skills to avoid the impact of someone else's decisions - that can feel like powerlessness. No doubt. It doesn't mean it's true.

White lives matter. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Take monuments down. Destroy history. Keep history. Be right. Be wrong. It's all a battle for power. Only here's the thing - You can't win something you already have access to and you can't lose something wired into your DNA. No matter how hard we try, adding together 2 apples and 2 oranges will not give us 10 Almonds. And as long as we try to solve the equation by using the wrong computation, we are fucked.

Monday, August 7, 2017

botany+dragons+ex-heroine addicts = a little clarity

Weeds. They are easy to get lost in. Particularly when one decides it is necessary to identify all the weeds on the way out of the bramble patch.

This is the allegoric representation on why it took me a ridiculously long time to finish a 3 - part series on stalking for Conflict Research Group, International.

The deeper I delved into the writing project, the worse it got. The more I tried to be precise in my writing the more I discovered the whole field and everything in it was unclear, undefined and difficult to identify. I wondered if this is what Scott felt like years ago up in the outlands of Canada. Scott being a cousin who was contracted by the Canadian government to go out and identify all the plants growing in the grasslands and then to categorize which ones were indigenous and which ones were interlopers. He spent weeks out there with his dog/wolf hybrid. Sometimes days on on end without seeing another human. Looking at each little growing thing seeking to answer two questions. What are you? Do you belong here?

Working on the stalking articles I felt like what I imagined Scott might have felt weeks into the project. Overwhelmed by all the possibilities. While Scott was digging through the underbrush and plucking at leaves and stems, I was digging through published material and various taxonomies. Plucking through Bureau of Justice statistics while also periodically disentangling myself from my monkey brain chatter rising up through a field of personal experience (having been stalked twice). On the second rewrite of article 2 of 3 all I could see was an expanse of unnamed possible patterns in human behavior and fields of possible taxonomies - some established, others undetermined.  And then a feeling of futility.

And that's where I wonder if Scott and I shared another experience. If he might have looked out across the landscape as it dropped off into the infinity of the horizon and pondered on the possibility there might be no true end to the project - a fuck-this, what's the point? - moment.

The chatter that ran through my little monkey brain sounded a lot like that and I, in my fantasy of presumed solidarity with a family elder I respect, I wondered if we shared something.
  • why am I doing this?
  • what's the point?
  • I'm sure there's someone better at this, knows more about this
  • I don't think I'm smart enough to figure this out
  • No one's going to read this anyway (it doesn't add to any valuable body of knowledge)
  • I probably don't know what I'm talking about
There were more, but those are the ones I remember at the moment.

When I got really lost in the weeds, I pitched the unfinished, multi-versioned articled #2 to a friend. One I trust to call bullshit - one I trust to say whoa sister, way too much personal drama.

His feedback, over a couple of conversations, made things worse which made the whole project easier. He had his own wonderings, musings and questions about the topic and behavior patterns and affects. I realized there was a metarphoric metric ton of plants in this field that were never going to be fully identified in a little 3-part article series. So I let go of that part and suddenly I had a finished product. There are a series of assumptions in the articles and a more than equal chance they are wrong as much as they are right.

And that's okay. This is what I've got. Personal experience + a little professional knowledge + some training in the arena of personal defense/safety. Maybe it adds to the body of knowledge. Maybe the suppositions are so wrong, it will send someone else off in a particularly right direction.

My monkey's need to be correct - was part of my problem. I didn't want to misinform and my past experiences where telling me I was supposed to get it all figured out. Ego's a bitch.

And as I finish up this post, I am having a flashback. Remembering a moment with an intuitive, intelligent, slightly off-kilter ex-heroine addict-turned-leadership-trainer. John looked at me and made an observation. "You like to observe and assess and figure things out, don't you?" Yup.

"Yeah....that's not really going to work for you." He said a few more things but I don't remember them because the rest of it just completely pissed me off and all I remember was the moment when I called him out.
"Are you challenging me?" to which John replied by covering the distance of a conference hall in a nano second and stood well inside my 3 foot space bubble, leaned in and announced with more certainty than I thought possible - "Yes! Yes.I.Am."

This was almost 20 years ago. He was right then, and he is still right. I am better when I stop trying to figure it all out ahead of time. We all are.  There is a difference between being an idiot and ignoring the information and experiences gained by others - the wisdom that exists through the knowledge of people who have traveled the terrain ahead of us. And when we hit uncharted spaces - figuring out all the possibilities before we move into the terrain is paralyzing. The new stuff, the fun stuff, the fantastically terrifying stuff is out there in the weeds and the uncertainty and the wrong-ness that is guaranteed by playing in spaces that are uncharted.

"Beyond this place there be dragons" translated to ink on my arm as a reminder that the best lessons are learned playing with the dragons of uncharted territory clearly isn't enough of a personal reminder, because writing these articles would have been much easier if I had remembered.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole just got interesting

Two time-encompassing things have happened these past few weeks.  One both internal/external time monster and the second mostly internal.

One: Kid got married this past weekend. Lots of time and energy and totally worth it.Weird to be in this phase of life in which I have a kid who was in the right space in life to be getting married. It's a threshold of sorts. Yeah, yeah, we can do the whole "how did I get this old" or "when did I become an adult" thing. While it's a little accurate - it's more about this new space that is opening up in life. For him, for me - still letting it settle in to see what it all means.

Two: finalized a draft for the second article on stalking, 2 of an intended 3 part series that started with the post on boundary setting and stalking (here). Or so I thought.

I'm a BTDT girl with stalking. Oh. That doesn't read well. As in have been v. have done. Twice. You know the whole thing about experience as the best teacher and experience being a by product of not having always been the sharpest crayon in the box.....

The BDTD shirt award has the capacity to skew my perspective creating glitches and blindspots so before I finalized the draft I sent it to a friend. The kind of friend who is comfortable pointing out the glitches and blindspots and throwing bullshit flags. The best kind of friend, really.

After several conversations I think I can finally finish the article and the series. I haven't created a magnificent masterpiece. Far from it. What I think I can finally articulate is the complexity of stalking, boundary setting and the tangle of humans as both predator and prey tangoing with the twisted social scripts creating this minefield.

Research indicates there a couple different taxonomies for types of stalking. They are descriptive and naturally incomplete. I could create another taxonomy - I may just to make finalizing these articles easier. I have been avoiding doing this but I think it's going to be necessary. The easier thing would be to scrap the project altogether because here's what the conversation with my flag throwing friend created - when anti-stalking laws hit the books (launched by California in the 90's), a line was drawn. Good behavior on one side and Bad (punishable) behavior on the other. Humans like this distinction. Simplifies shit.

Only stalking does not play nice with this distinction.

I can finish the article series because I have accepted I can't get it all neatly tidied up. That's where I was getting stuck. Every time I thought I was on the right track I discovered I was really just writing my way down another rabbit hole. Playing with the Rabbit Hole/Warren metaphor, I have decided I don't need to neatly outline the labyrinth. I am just going to play around in the tunnels and see what happens. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

simple isn't always easy - applying boundaries

thinking - noodling around, not going to be a "well thought out" piece.

plugging back in after several days of self-imposed isolation from distance communications -emails, FB, etc. Ran into Rory's pieces about boundary setting and it plugs into a Watership Down kind of rabbit trail so going to work it out in words. Maybe.

The last decade give or take a few years, the idea that stalking was harmful and could become dangerous to the intended has become a common dialogue. Used to be, you couldn't do anything about a stalker until the stalker did something to you. Physically. Like broke into your house or made physical contact on the violence scale.

By that point, the dynamic is deep. It takes time for most stalkers to escalate into direct contact at this level. Weeks, months usually. R's boundary setting, which I use in material I teach is a great example of what needs to happen with someone who's going to push and test at what you are willing to accept.  Read his blog (here) for the full conversation if you're interested. The short version is
state boundary - state boundary again - state consequence - execute consequence. That's it. Anything more sends a message to the Threat "there's wiggle room and loopholes" and the Threat will find them.

With stalking it's not so simple - and it is. By the time the Intended realizes this is no bueno, the boundary thresholds have been crossed - progressively. They're already past the curb, up the sidewalk and probably even over the threshold of the front door (literally and figuratively).

Yesterday the whole "what to do with a stalker" issue came back up. I had a student for a while who trained with us on a scholarship. Long story. Short version - hardcore Domestic Violence situation. Did everything by the book. Restraining orders etc. etc.

She's leaving the state with her kid, getting a new life and a new job because even though he's not violating the orders, he's got other people to do it for him now.

Stalking is complex. Social scripts gone super-toxic. Her situation sends little vibrations into me because I can relate. Got a couple of decades space between being stalked and the present but some things stick with you. I hope moving across the country works for her. Leaving the state worked for me - but that was pre interwebs days, it's soooo much easier to find people now with a hell of a lot less effort.  Anyway. Boundary setting -

By the time the Intended realizes the situation is no bueno so many thresholds have been crossed that setting the boundary isn't without consequence - it goes to R's application to real-world messiness. The trick would be, setting the boundary much, much earlier in the game. Problem is, most people don't know there's a game afoot in the early part of the game.

All the education and words of wisdom amount to a hill of beans here. Telling someone to be "aware" doesn't do a damn bit of good - not in the early evolution of the dynamic. By the time my friend (who happened to be my USPS deliver guy & a former MP in the Marine Corp) need to watch out for this guy, something's not right...  my neighbor was already several chess moves ahead of me. The warning perked up my ears but nothing looked authentically off until that morning I got a phone call from my caring, concerned neighbor who wanted to be sure I was "up". Worried I might be late for work because I hadn't gotten in the shower yet...things got really fun after that.

There are different reasons/motivations for stalking and it all boils down to superfund site levels of toxic social scripts. I'm working out ways to create awareness without turning everyone into a paranoid freak show shutting down compassion and empathy within one's community.  I'm not creating anything new, there's a ton of stuff out there on stalking behaviors. It's about the timeline and the thresholds...that's what I'm chasing through the dark entrails of the intertwined tunnels of the rabbit warren.

Because if we can't get that managed, none of the other stuff is nearly as effective. Like the student who stopped in to say good-bye before she leaves town, boundary setting in the form of protective orders etc. have loopholes a truck can drive through.  And once the Threat's actions become noticeable to the Intended, so many subtle invisible thresholds have been crossed that the overt boundary setting is easy (for the Threat) to ignore...or work around. We tell our Littles...don't talk to strangers....because they don't have the wherewithal to differentiate a lure from an authentic engagement. If we carry this rule into adulthood, we will forever live in either a) abject isolation or b) incestuous tribalism. Both kinda' suck. Because the warning signs of stalking are damned subtle in the beginning and identification is complex, there needs to be a simple litmus test. Working on that...

Monday, May 22, 2017

recognize the bait - recognize the hook

A friend in the martial arts/self-defense world posted something recently from an online group. She copied a post from another female practitioner and then made a sympathetically face-palm sort of rant  about the post.

I read the repost. At the moment I am all out of rants and something needs to be said - again.

"You probably aren't going to hurt/injure a family member or colleague. So, be careful about biting on the show me what you learned hook." This is a common cautionary statement delivered mostly (in my experience) from female instructors to female students.

Here's why we say it:

Jane starts training in martial arts or self-defense. Jane's brother, husband, boyfriend, male colleague (fill in the blank) will eventually make this request show me what you learned. This is a hook. The majority of the time, this request is an invitation to a monkey display of strength, dominance and ultimately - putting her back in her place in the tribal hierarchy. What happens next is predictable.

Jane: we learned how to defend a headlock (or whatever you want to put in there...)
Him: show me -
        He puts her in said headlock or choke or grab or whatever and sinks in like he's fighting for his life. Jayne begins to demonstrate the defense....and it fails. She can't get out or get away because she is being respectful of the relationship. She isn't running at full speed or full power. She isn't causing pain or injury. If the defense is technically valid, it will work in most situations but she will need to execute with the full force of my life depends on it level of energy and commitment. If Jane does this, her boyfriend, husband, son, brother, etc. is getting hurt. So she doesn't.

Him: see? you can't fight someone like me, it won't ever work against someone like me
        his point? I dominate you. I always have and I always will. You are defenseless against me.

If this is a family member who actually gives two-cents worth about Jane's safety and security, why would he want her to feel helpless? He will argue that he's just trying to make it realistic for her, only he isn't. He is counting on her unwillingness to cause him pain and injury.

If Jane says fuck it to the social boundaries and executes an effective response to his attack there is retribution. Punishment. Sometimes it's physical - he hurts her back. If the relationship is personal or familial, the punishment may not be physical, it may be more like withdrawing affection or help around the house or cutting remarks.

Sometimes, sometimes this happens on the mat. A male training colleague will feel it's his duty to make sure his attacks are realistic so the girl gets a real experience .... or that's the story he tells himself to justify an opportunity for physical expressions of power and control over women. If Jane is effective here, the punishment is usually physical and is occasionally backed-up with cutting remarks to her and fellow to students about her. This is what happened to the woman in the forum. She posted her experience to the other women in the group and I don't like my reaction.

I just nodded and moved on. Kind of like I nod and move on when someone tells me we are out of milk at home because, well, so what else is new?  Happens all the time.

A couple of key points:

  • yes, this happens once in a while between men
  • it may happen between women, I don't have any accounts of it
  • no, this is not a Down with Patriarchy flag flying moment - because -
  • it's not about patriarchy
  • it's about a distorted and toxic relationship with power

The guy on this script doubts. He doubts his own capacity for power so he adds to his power-bank account by dominating other people. He does this by playing on the specific social scripts of expected behavior among martial artists and/or connected relationship (the script being don't hurt or injure family/friends/colleagues in a polite demonstration) and leverages the script to gain power and control. The social script is the bait. It's a fantastic piece of bait because it blends right in to the environment. Like the fisherman's perfect lure or the hunter's deftly disguised trap, the bait distracts the prey from the hook hiding behind the natural environmental cues (social scripts).

This behavior matches two specific profiles. The process predator and the resource predator. Both use the standard social scripts in any given culture or tribe to their advantage for the purposes of power and control.

It doesn't meant that the boyfriend, brother, husband, colleague is categorically a process predator. We are all capable of this orientation. It means that in our current sociocultural milieu, there is still a hard glitch in a significant number of men when women express physical fierceness. Their human brain says of course I think women should be able to defend themselves their monkey brain snarls against everyone except me.

I don't know the woman who posted her experience in my friend's Facebook group. Don't have to. I have had any number of female students come to me and tell identical stories. So much so, that now when I teach women's only classes there is a specific script I use during the wrap-up. I explain that this hook will most likely get thrown at their feet by someone they know. And then we talk about how to handle it.

I won't wrap this up by saying it's sad we have to do this because saying it's sad decries the common nature of the experience and denies reality. This happens all the time. Women who train need to know  it for what it is - it's a hook. Bite down on the hook and he has permission now to justify his display of physical power and efforts at domination.

Don't bite.

caveat: there are plenty of situations where this does NOT happen. When the male person asks to be shown what she's learning and he doesn't try to prove anything to her. Writing about how frequently the request is used as a hook is about like anything we write about; highlighting things that need to be highlighted so we can become part of the solution v. perpetuating the problem.

Monday, May 1, 2017

fighting and self-defense #3

this conversation about fighting and self-defense - or fighting v. self-defense has gotten interesting.

It's cool because what could get positioned and argumentative hasn't - at least with the people who are   reaching out. There's an odd sort of hope generated in this -

There are a whole lot of people working really hard to be right and to make others wrong about...well, you name it. There are a lot of people running around being angry about a lot of things at the present, and it's encouraging we can still bang out various opinions and potential disagreements from a place of curiosity without becoming bitterly positioned.

One of the comments about the last post posited that the versus context wasn't the best way to view the distinction between self-defense and fighting (and this is all wrapped up inside the context of training paradigms). Another conversation highlighted a bias. Mine, and his. I know I have several. So this is good.

The bias is evolving into a series of questions.
Here's the bias: a deep Fighter orientation to training will be less detrimental to male students than to female students.

Men have a stronger paradigm for fighting than women. And yes, I am taking very broad generalities here because if I caveat everything with 'there are always exceptions' I will never get to the end of it. I respect my colleagues enough to acknowledge they can apply that fact on their own, plus, it saves time to say it once and move on.

Men grow up with a Fighter/Hero personification and actions toward this are positively reinforced both subtly and overtly. As kids, girls do not have the Fighter/Hero goal nearly so strongly in their worlds - some girls don't have it at all. It's changing, but the Fighter/Hero role model for girls are still the exception, not the rule.

Example: Both my sons trained in martial arts as kids. There were girls in their classes. The percentage was not equal though, 25 maybe 30% of the kids were female.  And when on average, there are more female children than male children - that percentage difference is noteworthy.

How many girls do you see on the high school wrestling teams? More now than 20 years ago, sure. But where would you put it? 40%? 30% Not even close. Go to an MMA gym - what's the gender ratio? It won't be even close to an even split in most places. It's a great microcosm of the social messages we marinate in - boys fight. Girls...not so much.

Boys grow up learning the social rules around the fight. When to stop. that it's okay to let your friends pull you off and walk away. You can hold your own, but don't cross certain lines. There's a textbook's worth of dissecting we could do on this one. Bottom line, girls don't grow up with this same level of fight-indoctrination directly or vicariously.

Put her in a self-defense class and tell her she needs to learn to be a fighter and she's going to glitch. Maybe not openly and maybe not even consciously - but if she didn't grow up in martial arts etc., she knows she isn't here to learn to be a good Fighter.

This is because just like the boys who get indoctrinated in the Fighter/Hero context of being male, she's getting indoctrinated into world of shadow and gray lines and paradoxical expectations. Be nice, but don't be taken advantage of. Be pretty...but don't attract too much attention. Be helpful, but don't be naive. Be strong, but don't be bitchy about it. Again, a textbook's worth of stuff here too. On the mat in self-defense training she knows she is not going to be confronted with violence in the context of a fight*. The guy at the end of the bar is not going to start something with her with a "hey! What da' fuck YOU lookin' at!!?? You want a piece of me??"

Nope. He's going to offer to walk her to her car on the way to his, because she shouldn't go out into the dark parking lot alone. He's going to shame her if she refuses his Hero moment. He's going to take her flirting and use it to carefully maneuver her where there aren't any witnesses.  He's going to be the guy she kinda' knows (because he's part of the larger social group she hangs out with) who tells her "your ex is a dumb son-of-a-bitch for not hanging on to you...because if I had a woman like you...I'd make damned sure you knew how important you were...." as the beginning of his predatory interview.

The word "fight" has hella' strong social violence connotations attached. No matter how much we intellectualize it away, those connotations are there. The violence most women face does not follow clean social violence patterns. She is not going to exchange blows with someone of equal size/mass/power. She knows this in an way that is more intuitive than conscious; and if it's unconscious enough, she will doubt her instincts and take the word of the accomplished instructor. She will violate what she knows and start training like a Fighter.

 If she is learning to be a Fighter, she will be taught rules of engagement. Social rules unconsciously programmed into all the men she trains with, and who are likely her instructors. Those rules may get her killed.

And as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if maybe the social violence context that men carry might be more dangerous for the men than for the women when a Fight Context is assigned to self-defense. Asocial violence isn't going square up to him any more than it/he will square up to the girl at the end of the bar. It is going to hit him at lightening speed and with a viciousness and apathy (for him as a human being) for which all his fight training and socialization is profoundly antithetical. Maybe, this is worse. He's going to approach the violence inside his Social Fighting context and it is going to fail spectacularly.

Fighting v. Self-defense.

It's a simple fix. The training drills like a 4 on 1 sparring are good drills. Learning to read that your partner throws 2 jabs for every cross is a great skill for rapid assessment and decision making, etc, etc. Discovering that you have the determination to hang through 5 different sparring partners at the end of a 7 hour test - epic. In context.

Instructors just need to make that context clear. Overtly. Directly. Nothing implied or assumed. And people who teach self-defense, who know there is a difference between a fight and a blitz attack (as an example), and who know they are using fighting drills to teach AN aspect applicable to self-defense, and who get the different types of violence and the various victim profiles, who understand the intense implications with fighting language and how fighting drills are filled with training flaws, and...and...and don't make shit up, who are willing to say "I don't know" - these self-defense instructors can blend the worlds and it will work.


Just not easy. The minute instruction gets lazy, it risks the drift into Fighting contexts with the assumption people will "get it". Only they won't. It's not a lack of intelligence. The social conditioning has gone into core belief systems held at the monkey brain level, one of the strongest decision makers we live in.

One of the comments on the last post was that Fighting VERSUS Self-Defense wasn't the right approach. There's truth to that statement. As a permanent place for dialogue, it isn't useful either. If you don't know there is a difference though, getting clear that there are in fact differences and then what the differences are is critical if self-defense instruction is going to be ethically relevant.

*domestic violence dynamics can look a lot like a fight. The aggression and violence looks like fighting but the context that creates the possibility for domestic violence is about dominance, control and maintaining power differentials.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fighting v Self-Defense

Feels like I should start this out with score cards and stats. "In thiiisss corner, wearing the Fighter's colors...." the crowd goes wild. "And over there, we have the Self-Defense Contender..." booooooo.

The first post on this topic generated a ton of conversation. Super happy about that because thinking inside the vacuum of one's own mind isn't always a productive event. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts, questions, opinions and challenges in the FB feeds around the last post (this one). D. Moon said, yes this is a hill worth dying on. People who know me were probably tsk-tsking..don't encourage her. Too late. Up the hill we go.

One of the conversations around the last post gathered around the concept of fighting skills and transferability to self-defense. Reading y'all's ideas about it, I am thinking this:

1. If you have incredibly solid skills in a fighting system there is a degree of transferability to a self- defense situation. A degree. It can't hurt to have a mean left hook or an effective leg sweep. What's also true is that your mean left hook or efficient sweep will only be useful if the situation creates an opening for you to use the technique.

Incredibly solid fighting skills take years to develop. Years. Not months. Not days. Years. There is a degree of transferability at the physical level. There may be a degree of transferability at the mental level as well. If you are used to taking hit then the nasty sucker punch won't undo you as much as it would otherwise.  This splits off into two specific rabbit trails.

                          Rabbit Trail A: Years. If someone is looking for self-defense training for fun, as a past time, as a cool way to burn a few calories, years isn't horrible. But if you need that self-defense you probably don't have years to wait. Brings to mind students who come into our place because they (and their family) are going to be detailed somewhere less-than-safe. Usually this information means the move is pending 12 to 18 months out, sometimes sooner. Busy lives, kids etc. they aren't going to be able to train 4 days a week. If the goal is make them an excellent fighter who is, as a result, highly adaptable under stress 12 months isn't going to do it with 1 to 2x a week training sessions. From a Fighter's perspective, we'll spend our time in strikes, kicks, combo's, power generation, sparring....lots and lots of sparring. Pad work...lots and lots of pad work. Conditioning drills....tons of those too. Strategy development, etc. By the time these students get all this down cold, they'll be shipping out. What about threat assessment? What about understanding the context of violence? What about the knife threats? The grabs and pulls and chokes? Sorry, we ain't got time for that.
                         From a Fighting First approach to self-defense, what do you do with the woman who is being stalked? How long does she have before the stalking begins to escalate? Before the stalker makes contact, shows up on her doorstep, gets physical. Do you have an answer? No. You don't. If you understand the various profiles of stalking behavior and you have time to engage in a detailed interview with the student and then to assess her experience against the profiles, you may have a rough prediction. This isn't a crystal ball. She may never need her self-defense skills. She may need them tomorrow. You don't have months. How will you triage? If you solidly believe she must become an effective boxer, Muay Thai fighter, MMA fighter before she learns much of anything else she better hope her stalker plans on squaring up before shit goes south.

                         Rabbit Trail B: Learning to take a hit. And this is invaluable. We all react a little differently when we get hit. Some people freeze, other people crumple in shock, some people run, other people cry and beg for mercy, and others still charge forward with no plan except flailing fists. Would be good to know which one you are, yeah? Better still, it'd be really good to learn that taking a shot doesn't have to cost you your control.
                       Training up a good fighter, this is part of it. Has a degree of transferability to self-defense, but it's a pretty small degree. Preaching to the choir now because self-defense instructors know there is a marked difference between an ambush, a predatory set-up,  and other kinds of asocial violence and the monkey dance which can have a series of tells warning you that the sucker punch is impending. The social tells mean you might be able to avoid getting hit at all. Flip it to asocial violence and it doesn't matter how proficient a fighter you aren't going to see that shit coming. Rory is known for saying: smart people avoid what they see, you'll get hit with what you didn't see. Probably not an exact quote.
                      If we take a Fighting tack in our self-defense instruction and we place good fighting skills as the primary objective, the student is horribly unprepared for what is going to hit them. A good fighter can read the monkey dance and can find ways to disengage before it goes physical (if they know ego has no place in this game). A good fighter is as unprepared for the ambush from behind or the intentional set up of a process predator. As unprepared as someone without any training at all, maybe. Maybe, even worse - Fighting has rules. Asocial violence will exploit the rules of a good fight and use it against you.
                     So a little transferability because it's good to take impact, to understand what it does to you, what you instincts tell you to do and what your social programming dictates you do. It's good to find these with gloves and mouthguard before you find these because someone has come up from behind and smashed your head into the wall. Beyond this, thinking the impact of a fight is going to look or feel anything at all like the impact of a violent encounter...that's a risky expectation.

These rabbit trails and the questions about whether or not good fighting skills help in self-defense - Good fighting skills might help. Help as in, assist. If that's all you give a student or if that's what you hold as the most valuable of skills you teach, you are teaching self-defense from Disney's scripted set of prescribed heroes and villains. Outside the Magic Kingdom, reality pays little deference to Disney's script or the rules of a good fight.

The Hill To Die On is whether or not it matters. Whether and/or how much it matters that people who think they are teaching self-defense are really teaching/training fighters and they don't know what the difference is. Or how much it matters that there is a difference.

And that's the struggle of it. There is enough transferability to make the distinction murky.

I'm not done with this just yet. More thoughts forming. And ultimately, those of us who believe there is in fact, a difference don't much need a conversation like this.

When all these thoughts and conversations and machinations are done, the Hill remains.  Some days I have the energy for it. Other days I just want to play with my tribe and be like little Rose, the viral internet sensation who just wants her dad to "worry 'bout yourself". To what extent is there a duty to this hill? Hmmm.