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.