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) said...hey....you 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.

Simple.

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 are....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.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

pushing at perspectives in self-defense and other questionable Hills To Die On




I'm circling a hill. You know, the hills we die on. Wondering if it's a hill I really want to go charging up.

Most of the time, those are easy decisions for me. Not based on whether or not I will win the battle - based on instead, how important I feel the fight is. Feel being a key point of clarification because Hills to Die On are emotional/passion based battles and that means deep into monkey brain territory. That doesn't make it good or bad, it just clarifies the choice-point.

Anyway, there's this hill I have been circling around the base of off and on for the past several months. Every once in a while I charge up the hillside, don't get very far, and then hit a wall of not-worth-the-effort and head back down into the peaceful little valley below. Back to a neutral space that just acknowledges different mindsets and goes on about it's merry way.

The question really, is does it matter? 

Does it matter that there are a good chunk of people who teach martial/combat arts for the purpose of self-defense but don't really get what teaching self-defense means? There are layers and layers to the quandary but I'm only looking at one for the moment: women's self-defense instruction.

It took me a long time to figure out this was a real problem. I thought everybody knew there was a difference between fighting and self-defense. I believed the difference was obvious and intuitively understood. Naiveté and a well-crafted set of blinders I willingly strapped to my awareness kept me complacently agreeable for a long time because it never occurred to me the difference wasn't intuitive. When people I respected and people far more skilled than I am talked about the need to teach women to be better fighters, I thought...well okay, they know better than I do, maybe I'm missing something.

It took a couple of years before the incongruence of our perspectives (theirs and mine) became obvious enough I couldn't justify them any more.  I started asking questions.

The people who use the word "fighter" when they talk about training women in self-defense. What do they mean with that word? Here's some of what I am finding out about how the SD/Fighter folks define what they mean:

train her through determination drills
train her to develop good technical skills
train her to develop a higher level of athleticism/fitness
train her to look convincing

Typing those first four, I could unpack each of them in a post of their own. Maybe I will. Later.

At first blush none of these are overtly bad ideas for self-defense. Mindset, physical skill, endurance, being able to move her body so she no longer looks like a good target... they all fall into a broader category of Fighter, which at the end of it, always includes that she must first and foremost have fantastic "fighting" skills. Hitting, kicking, sparring, managing multiple opponents effectively in two-minute drills, etc.

These are great skills. They just aren't about self-defense. These are combat art training goals.

I had a crystallizing moment about a year ago at an international training camp. One of the instructors at the camp was running through key distinctions in a session wrap up. "This is a fighting and self-defense system, in that order".  Yes. Yes it is. He reduced to a sentence something I couldn't articulate without a full paragraph.

It means that some systems, like Krav Maga for example, have applications to self-defense but are not, in and of themselves a self-defense training system. It's a fighting system first.

And fighting is different than self-defense. If I am developing a female fighter, those 2 minute sparring drills are great tools.

If I am working with women for self-defense, why would I ever want to introduce her to the idea she should a) let it get physical and b) purpose to stay in the fight for 2 minutes?

The goals are different. The goals can cross-pollinate and they can serve as supporting elements to one another, just not categorically. They are not fully interchangeable.

And we are back at the base of the Hill to Die On.  I have a significant number of martial colleagues who do not see this distinction. They believe if you are going to teach a woman self-defense, you must first teach her solid fighting skills. Teach her to be solid in her pad work, strong kicks, effective hitting, good fight strategy in sparring.

And when I hear this, I am flooded by all the faces of all the female violence targets I have  worked with and the stories of the encounters. Good, solid sparring skills would have served them poorly...or would have made the situation much, much worse. Violence where women are concerned is rarely fueled by the social constructs of a fight.

I want to say - 'don't focus on teaching her to be a good fighter, teach her to END it'. And my colleagues who have this differing perspective ardently believe that is exactly what they are doing.

As of this moment, I suspect the muddling up of things is because of this marked level of crossover. Although the goals of self-defense and the goals of fighting are distinct, some of the training approaches can be applied to both goal sets.

None of these goals, these fighter goals, are bad. I enjoy training in this orientation - a lot. Writing this in part because I woke up this morning super aware that my 52 year old body spend 3 hours rolling with a group of guys who are upwards to 20 years younger than I am. It was a blast. I was happy all day after we wrapped up. Three hours of sweaty, smelly, slimy ground work. Finding locks and holds and control positions. Flow drills and cheats and compression work and submissions...so much stinking fun.

And. My 5'3" frame would be maimed or dead if I took yesterday's mindset and applied it to a self-defense situation with Threats who were any one of the men I rolled with yesterday. Will yesterday's training session improve my skills? Absolutely. Rolling the 190 pound guy into an armbar was fantastic for my competitive side. And I know the difference between chess match drills for skills development and self-defense realities.

But what about the people who choose not to see this distinction.

Is this a hill to die on?

One of my monkeys jumps up and down "yes, yes!". The rest of me looks at this and can see how deeply held the Fighting & Self-Defense Are The Same mindset is held and it doesn't look like it's worth the effort. Which goes to the reality that, at a point, standing on this hill waiving my sword around may just be a variant of arrogance.

The conundrum has created a metaphoric base camp at the bottom of the hill. I'm pretty sure this is not the most efficient use of my time and energy, but my monkeys really like to camp.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

training for tragedy - part 2 - sort of




Haven't gotten much farther with Gilligan's book. A little. Finding a few things I don't agree with but I expected that, that's cool. Let's me test my thinking.

I'm still noodling on the whole "tragedy" context he's anchored into where violence is concerned. He has so far, ignored that very few people feel tragic loss when they smash a mosquito into oblivion. His focus is intra-species violence - specifically violence against humans by humans. And there is one place at least, I can agree with the tragedy narrative.

Before I went into private practice as a shrink, I worked in the inpatient world. First as a teacher (pregrad school days) and then as a therapist and program coordinator. The last gig was a 5 year run for a long term RTC, residential treatment center. Kids as young as 6 up through young adults age 22. Ranging in diagnosis from childhood schizophrenia to ...homicide... not a diagnosis but working the system we had a population chunk of adolescents who were temporarily avoiding adult sentencing due to mental health issues.

They came to us instead of prison. For a while. We were a Level Six facility. Meaning we took the kids no one else would touch. Kicked out of therapeutic foster homes, kicked out of group homes, kicked out of everywhere due to their propensity for violent action. Some of our kids were 4' and 75 pounds, others were 6'1" and 250 pounds.

Never a dull moment and we survived with a level of gallows humor by which most of the genpop would be remarkably offended.

That's the context. Now back to Gilligan. He reminded me of something. Doing the math. We were one of several Level Six centers in Texas. One state out of 50 with several Level Six type facilities and at the time, we were a "90 bed facility". Meant we had 90 kids in house. There are Level One and Level Three placements and foster homes and....

And most of these crazy violent kids came from soberingly violent experiences at the hands of violent adults. Do.The.Math. Just because they are kids, doesn't mean they are harmless. My HepC exposure was due to an encounter with a violent 7 year old who liked to bite and a lot of 15 year olds are walking around in adult-sized bodies. If you are strong enough to pick up a table, you are strong enough to chuck it at my head. I digress.

I don't feel particularly tragic about the level of violent action I am capable of, should such action be necessary to get my ass home safe.  But the 6 year old who is in a Level Six facility because she has seriously wounded other children in a foster home because she is acting out the actions taken against her from her family of origin? Needing to frequently interrupt her attempts to masturbate against pretty much any chair leg she could find - in front of any number of humans because she didn't know it wasn't normal (because she had been an adult's sex toy) - that's kinda' tragic.

That was all a long time ago. Those kids are now all adults. The adolescents, if they are still alive, are in their 30's by now. A very few of them will have "made it out alive" - and I don't just mean physically. We still have all of those facilities. They are still full and they are still scattered throughout every state. Not all, but a good chunk of these tragic kids will become ruthless and violent adults.

If you encounter one of them - and you have to choose who gets to go home safely (you or him/her) - perhaps this is Gilligan's tragedy. The six year old girl is now - roughly - 23. If she's tweaking to self-medicate that childhood of hers and you are her resource for her next high...she's not going to give a rat's ass whether or not people will miss you if you die. Will you care why she's tweaking? Feel tragic for how she got here? Maybe. One thing's a certainty. If you care about her horrific past in the moment she is pincushioning you with a knife, this is not a win.

I'm not getting into the solutions or answers in this post. I'm just letting the numbers sink in. The math. There a lot of adults walking around who started out as one of these kids. They aren't all part of Gilligan's tragedy - some of them have figured out how to fall through the Looking Glass and come out the other side (and no, not defining what that means either).  With the hundreds of cases I have encountered, I forget sometimes what the numbers mean. And maybe that's part of the tragedy as well. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

training for tragedy



#training for tragedy #cross breeding books  #can't help myself. 

If I wrote in hashtags that's how this would start.

Book number one; Rory's book, Training for Sudden Violence, is aptly titled seeing as it is a series of drills and skill development options for the potential of a violent encounter. 

Book number two; Gilligan's book, Violence: Reflections on a national epidemic, I haven't finished yet but I can't help myself. 

Gilligan is a psychiatrist who spent the bulk of his career working with incarcerated violent offenders. Gilligan has a personal touchstone with violence as well, grew up with a raging father.  Rory and Gilligan share the background of working in the prison system and although I haven't finished Gilligan's book yet (and it published about 20 years ago) I am curious to see if there are similarities between the two authors' perspectives. 

It's not a fair comparison because I know Rory. I am only now meeting Gilligan and only via his professional presentation on paper. 

...but I can't help myself. Gilligan starts by trying to create a language base that makes sense for the conversation. He goes through categories of constructs and explains why he chooses Tragedy as the only one that works for violence. 

Tragedy's etymology is odd, but I see how Gilligan came to his conclusion. Historically, the word describes an unhappy event, or a disaster. Gilligan takes it further and explains why it isn't "pathos" a natural disaster outside of human control - being goal driven and interactive and a variety of other things. 

Gilligan's title uses the word Epidemic too. I don't know if I agree with him yet - need to read the rest of the book. Playing with this though, it works (thus far).

As a student in combat arts, I seek out the most efficiently brutal approaches possible. So I can teach those efficiently brutal actions to people who might get caught in Gilligan's tragedy. I am then, training for tragedy. 

If violence is tragedy and this tragedy is epidemic then violence is a virus because a virus can be epidemic in nature. Bacterial infections can go epidemic as well, so I guess violence could be either and with both a viral and a bacterial epidemic, inoculations can be created to keep the uninfected safe. Gilligan has yet to mention how violence is fundamental to natural survival. Munching on a carrot or chewing on a steak - the methods getting both items to my plate involved violent action. The interchange between man and carrot or man and cow was unhappy for the cow/carrot- in Gilligan's interpretation then, a tragic moment went down.

I can't teach a carrot threat assessment skills or how to convince a Threat he's picked the wrong carrot to mess with. I can teach that to a human. Training for tragedy.

Playing around inside the etymology of the titles - Training for sudden violence is a gradual inoculation against tragedy. Sort of. If it goes physical, it's still doesn't really have a happy ending. If you defend yourself successfully there will still be an aftermath - you know, the whole catastrophic win thing? Yeah, it applies. 

But...in a violent interchange with a Target who believes he is incapable of defensive action, the tragedy may be far more epic. And the socialized condition rendering one human helpless against another, more comfortably violent human - this is also viral.

Okay. Let me see if I can tie this together. Training for violence is training for "tragedy", something disastrous. Like most things, disaster is scalable. The scale is impacted by the magnitude of the aftermath AND how the people involved interpret where the event falls on the scale.  Force is scalable. Force on force events end when one person uses just the right amount of force to overwhelm the ability of the other person to continue. Disaster management. Epidemic management. Inoculation. 

Inoculated against polio, I can be exposed to polio with a remarkably reduced risk of contracting polio. It isn't risk-free, but I'm down there on the low end of the scale. I got there because I have a little bit of the polio virus running through my veins. My immune system is 'trained' in polio. It knows how to defend itself. 

When I teach women's self-defense courses I tell them that the statistics will change when women are no longer a consistently easy target. When the exposure risk is consistently high -when women are inoculated carriers of Gilligan's Tragedy, many would-be Threats will think twice (you know, the whole goal of limiting the amount of damage s/he takes).  Not all; but many. This gets me in trouble with the current movement in feminism decrying women's self-defense training as part of the problem "Teach men not to rape!". 

Way to give the game away, girls. Let's go back to being helpless waifs with the vapors; yup that'll work. I mean it worked well in the past, right? 

If you don't want to catch polio you have two options during a polio outbreak. Option A: go live in the woods far away from all humans (like my grandparents did with my mother before there was a vaccine).  Option B: get inoculated. 

I love the isolation of the woods but I don't want to be forced to live there. And at the end of it, living in the woods only protects me, what about all the other people I care about? 

Option B, it is. Inoculation. I didn't need to have it injected because it is part of my nature as a human. I did need to have it brought to life. And although exposure to violence while under the influence of the other socialized infection (i.e. - experiencing helplessness in the presence of said violence) may play a part, Training for this Tragedy gave my instinctive nature a few tools to play with. 

Violence is integral to the fabric of the natural universe. Only humans engage in violent acts against other humans for the fun of it. Maybe this is Gilligan's tragedy - I'll know better when I finish his book.  Whether his logic plays out or not, he's given me metaphor that I can use, like the inert carrier agents of the virus/bacteria formulated for the inoculation, the metaphor may help get the point across.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Thresholds and Tells


Written this twice. Deleted it both times. This is number 3. Mostly because I couldn’t make the words work. They wouldn’t work because I was trying to work the words through too many filters. Controlling, managing for context and trying to keep it general. Can’t.

I think the context will/does generalize but I can’t figure out how to get to it without the personal example.

So here we go.

Training in new material, material and skills I find personally significantly relevant makes me hungry. Not hungry like it’s lunch time. Hungry for more. More play time, more discovery, exploration. Hungry for boundary testing and for application. Can I do X? Am I ________ enough to use this at-speed?


With a weapon – how many targets (on a body) can I contact, contact efficiently and effectively and in how short a time frame? Where are the flaws? What made me more/less vulnerable?

It’s fun. But that’s the wrong word. It’s not inaccurate as words go, it’s just remarkably insufficient.

Still filtering to a degree. The details, where I smiled the most, where I come more alive in training I’m pretty sure I can’t explain and at the end of it, that’s not the point anyway.

Last weekend I got to train at the hungry level. And along the way, I encounter the various verbal/nonverbal feedback from people I train with and it is brining me back to the conversation about thresholds.

You know the concept of a Tell? The telegraphed motion of a physical action or the subtle twitch subconsciously managing emotional discomfort when you are bluffing?

Thresholds have Tells on the training mat. What we think we are comfortable with, what we say we are comfortable with on the violence spectrum is what we expect we will train by on the mat. Here's the thing though, if what you THINK you are comfortable with lives in stark contrast to what you are actually comfortable with...there will be a tell.

I know some of my own Tells, not all of them I’m sure. I learn more about them when I train with people who are new to me. I know that under certain circumstances when I smile, other people get remarkably uncomfortable. Knowing this, I can choose when I let this Tell express itself (with whom and under what circumstances).

I wonder, how many martial artists and self-defense practitioners are noticing their threshold tells? How many are consciously aware that when they say “we’re all over here just having a good time and Sam (or Susie) is just trying to gut everyone” – that this is a threshold tell? In that moment, laughing and joking along with their tribe, they are leaking information this makes me uncomfortable, I don’t like that level of violence.

If you learn your Threshold Tells, then you will also know what information you give away and maybe that’s not a big deal on the mat, but it will be in the violence gets real.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

chasing down a thought - dangerous instruction



In a conversation and now I'm working something out.

Dangerous Instruction.

I have a book's worth of examples - personal examples as a student, stories from other people I know and I'm sure there are my own unconsciously stupid moments at the front of a class.

But who wants to read about all the ways we can screw up self-defense instruction? There's a riveting bedtime story for you (read this dripping with sarcasm).

Thinking about ways to categorize it. Tags to chunk the information together and make it easy -or at least easier - to see dangerous instruction when it's happening.

Although the tags I am playing with could be as wrong as they may be accurate - it would be cool for students to have a framework as they started looking into choosing their training programs, wouldn't it? But it's more likely that most people looking for training are going to make their choices based on convenience. Convenient location, convenient scheduling, convenient cost. And that's too bad because that is a horrible litmus test by which to measure the value of your training.

That in mind, getting clear about dangerous instruction may be more valuable for instructors, people coaching, guiding, opening doors...whatever you want to call it. The goal with these tags is to keep them to a limited number. Broad categories. Too many measures and we will blow it off.

Right now I have three. I'm still working it out...



Lazy Teaching: instructors who don't take the time to think about what they are teaching or saying. Parroting their own instructors without actually wondering whether or not those axioms are valid. Drinking System kool-aid, these instructors may be using loyalty to their Sensei, Sifu, etc. as validation. It's a monkey brain trick designed to fool your human brain into napping instead of gut-level honest evaluation.
 
Guru Teaching: instructors who are teaching so they can develop a band of loyal followers, people who hang in her (or his) every word and admonished for their own efforts at personal discovery. This goes deep because if the instructor is also lazy and just drinks the kool-aid of their own style - then the students' learning will be deeply controlled. If this student is ever in a real encounter that doesn't match the controlled fantasies of the training experience...the consequences will be devastating.

Fad Teaching: take Krav Maga as an example. When it gained popularity instructor certification programs started popping up. Give us a weekend of your time and we'll make you a Krav Maga instructor. Problem with this is when the weekend-certified instructor gets asked a question she doesn't know the answer to...now what? Ego is going to be a factor. It's hard to admit that your training might have been insufficient for the job at hand and rather than say I don't know, Fad Certified instructors are likely to make-up an answer...and state it as fact.

it's a start.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

pavestones to hell



words - words are just symbols and symbols are things we create to represent and words are efficient to the nth degree when compared to dragging each other around to point at stuff or act out the drama of a historical event.  

Humans have a couple of unique traits, things our brains can do that other species lack. Processing symbols is one of these unique traits and it give us, among other things, this capacity for written language, words. Blessings can become curses.

I wrote about this before, I know. About how we use language and the risks of attaching emotional content to otherwise descriptive language like "victim" and the emotionally packed label victim becomes when applied to sexual violence. If you're interested, that blog is here.

Responsibility is another one. A word connected to sexual violence and misplaced assignments of blame. Rory and I wrote about that one for CRGI. I think it is becoming a bigger minefield than victim.

The word never got far from its Latin origin, respondere. It literally means to respond.  Responsibility then means:

your ability to respond

Do you see fault? Blame? anywhere in the definition? Nada. Blame and fault are not fucking synonyms to responsibility; however, because we have made them such - we have created a perpetual death spiral of weakness and victimization for Targets of sexual violence.

Here is how that works. First, we started out with blaming Targets for the assaults because of what they wore, or how they walked, or where they walked, or if they had a good time at a party and had a few drinks, or dated the "wrong kind of guy". The actions that primed them for sexual violence being no different than the actions of an out-of-town businessman who gets targeted for a mugging. You know dear, you were dressed provocatively and you had a few drinks and then went to find the bathroom on your own...how was he supposed to know it wasn't an invitation?

We don't pull the businessman aside and say dude, seriously - you wore that watch and those shoes? you wanted it, didn't you? And we started to figure that out, sort of. Enter stage left the backlash. It's not her fault, it's not your fault.  And it isn't. Process predators who rape for the power and control and the hard-on for violence are the perpetrators - not their Targets.

Then we forgot ourselves. We played mix and match with our words like we do with our wardrobes and blame, fault and responsibility became synonyms. You know the phrase...the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

There's a BBC comedic sketch running around the internet right now. It is clever. It is the mugged businessman being interviewed by the police the way we used to interview (well - we still do this honestly, no one really will admit it though) sexual violence Targets. The sketch makes a fantastic point of it.*

I was watching it and was all ooh, this is good! and then - damn it - and into the death spiral we go. The R word. I don't remember the exact line, something like "you know, don't you think you should take some responsibility?" Well yes, actually. He has the ability to respond to the mugging. He can choose how he interprets the violence that crashed through the looking glass into his otherwise peaceful, people-are-good, world.

He can choose to learn what made him a prime target and he can get it, that it was not his fault. He can understand he was a good pick because out-of-towners don't often return to the scene for the trial date and they tend to hang out at certain hotels and tend to have a drink at the hotel bar and tend to be less knowledgeable about the sketchy parts of town and...

Just like she can learn how process predators work and she can learn how her socialization gave her the right tools for saying no to sex when the other person also follows those rules, but zero tools for how those social rules will be used against her. She can learn how to break the rules and she can learn she is not damaged goods before those lessons become so ingrained in her mindset they govern her universe.

She has the ability to choose how she responds. This is what gives her strength and this is what gives her power to take herself OFF the prime target list instead of rising to the top for the next predator.

Because responsibility and blame are now symbolic synonyms and because we have not created an effective synonym for the real meaning of responsibility our efforts to interrupt victim blaming in sexual violence have produced a glass menagerie. Beautiful, fragile animals who are powerlessly incapable of responding. We think this is better?

At the moment, the only solution I can think of to this language fuck-up won't likely be received with warm fuzzies. Responsibility being bastardized leave me with this:

"You are not at fault for the predator's actions. The blame for his choice to target you, is on him. It could happen again because unfortunately, our society has set you up as prey. What's cool though? You aren't actually prey. You are a predator too. It is your nature. You are a wolf in sheep's clothing. Time to unzip the sheepsuit and walk around as the wolf you were born to be. Predators are reticent to attack their own kind, they know a fellow-predator has the capacity to fight back. And win. Be a predator."

Yeah. Imagine for a minute the reaction to the detectives et al. in the training program advising them to say that?  Then of course, we have the tangled mess of her taking on the notion that she is just like the person who attacked her - but this post is already too long. Maybe that will be the next one.

*the sketch is from the Tracy Ulman Show. Can't find a direct link to it but it's been on FB recently.