Thursday, September 21, 2017

where impunity is granted and related curiousities

Because I am conscious of gender dynamics I am sometimes overly cautious to tag something as gender related, careful about bias when I can be because I will be biased often enough.

Talked with someone a few days ago who will tell me if what I see as gender-based is not when I over-assign. And this time, I was not on a gender question but he said I think this may be a gender thing. After a couple of days noodling around on it, although I am resistant to acknowledge it, he may be right.

Here's the dynamic*.

In the social rules and protocols of one of the tribes I belong to, there is a general expectation of personal strength; the strength to protect oneself and others in your care be they family or otherwise. The idea of strength is to a degree physical but at the broader scope strength is assigned a much broader meaning.

Within the social expectations of the tribe, women are expected to be as strong as men. At the physical level there is acknowledgement that the bodies women and men live in are designed differently and as a result, the expression of physical strength is going to be different. Not "lower" in regards to, let's say, standards of achievement, but different. The women who reach physical benchmarks are proud to have passed the same types of 'tests' that the men pass. Shoulder-to-shoulder and all that.

Interesting though, there is perhaps a deep and unconscious social script in which personal strength in the expression of the broader idea of strength - protecting oneself and those in your care, setting boundaries, etc. - runs on a gender divided set of expectations in which the men have more permission to express strength, than the women. It's a struggle to acknowledge this exists due in part to the powerful overt messages within the tribe to the contrary - and I like those overt messages. A lot.

At the moment I am watching something unfold in which a female member of the tribe set a few boundaries and there are male tribe members who have previously set the exact same type of boundary. I don't know the full back story of course, I don't know if the male members of the tribe might have gotten private communication admonishing the boundary setting. It's possible and if it happened then this is no longer a gender dynamic (but still something to be curious about). I know the female has gotten some subtle - and less than subtle admonishments. Implications of being difficult, or that she needed to take different action, like repealing the boundary.  Even that repealing the boundary was the right and more ethical action than holding the boundary (and I'm paraphrasing so keep that in mind).

Interestingly, the remark about repealing the boundary came from a male tribe member who has set the same boundary on more than one occasion. And none of this means our female is right (or wrong). It's just a really interesting dynamic I hadn't considered until now:

Rule for Male Members of the Tribe - you may set a boundary about who/what you feel is best for the people you are responsible to
Rule for Female Members of the Tribe - if you set this boundary, you will do so without the same degree of impunity

so curious what the purpose of this rule would be -

*because I am a member of several tribes who focus on making people stronger I have kept this post super generalized on purpose. It's not about the tribe, it's about the social rules and being curious.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

back up the sparring hill we go-

This is me over here in my kitchen playing the part of an excited evangelical - nodding my head with vigor saying Yes, Yes YES! Reading this article from The Martialist, the author did a hell of a good job overall and targeted one of my soapboxes...which is why I'm all throwing my hands up with a can I get an amen.

I wrote a couple of blog posts about how fight training, sparring in particular is useful training but it is not, in and of itself, self-defense training. It just isn't. Mr. Elmore does a better job in this article than I could have hoped to do in the blog posts where I was beating my proverbial chest over the issue.

Concise and to the point he reminds us that sparring is symmetrical interaction:

"It's definitely a great way to get comfortable with applying techniques on a resisting opponent and with testing your abilities and your resolve in a relatively "safe" environment. The problem with sparring for self-defense training, though, is one of mindset. It (unavoidably and by definition) turns what should be an asymmetrical conflict into a symmetrical contest."

Sparring is good training. When I climbed up on this hill the last time, I got a good amount of feedback. Some folks agreed with me, others fought for the belief that "sparring = self-defense".  It IS good training. I like it for helping people realize they can take a hit and it doesn't have to shut them down. Unless the hit actually shuts them down by shutting down the brain stem, but that's different.

Sparring is excellent training to understand how much energy a fight takes and for learning to control your monkey brain (getting angry, overwhelmed, irritated, competitive, etc.). Sparring is a safe way to practice reading how other people move, to manage timing and range, and for applying some of the basic skills out of your system.  Sparring can be a great teaching tool, used correctly, and there a metric ton ways to use sparring incorrectly.

Sparring is good training. It IS not self-defense. It has application to self-defense, but as a singular training tool it fails. Self-defense will always be asymmetrical. The Threat makes the rules and you won't get to know what those rules are ahead of time. If you attempt to play by any set of rules, you will lose.  And there are rules in every aspect of training, sparring included. Examples from personal experience include (but trust me, this is the short list):

Judo: be honorable, always. I got warned about my language. I made a mistake and muttered shit. My sensei immediately gave me my one and final warning.
Kickboxing/MMA: Whoa! You can't do that. You can't kick her in the groin (trainer chuckles) you girls don't want that all hurting right? But if my opponent is following that rule and I don't follow it....I have an advantage.
Krav Maga: I hope you have a good lawyer was the humorous admonishment from an instructor after I disarmed a knife in a two on one drill and cut both parties as I ran for the exit. Oh, and keep distance, except once I gained some skill as an infighter if I can get super close I have unique cheats that aren't available "at a safe range".

Every system has a symmetrical element to it's training. At some point and to some degree. By it's nature, sparring is fundamentally symmetrical. In a sparring drill during a testing if I escalate and launch a flurry of attacks, drop a glove off deploying a training knife into a sewing machine attack and then run for the door, my scores will be really really poor. My training partner will be pissed and I will immediately develop a reputation for being a shitty testing partner.

So I have a request. No, it's really more of a plea. If you teach in any system and sparring is part of your training methodology, do not mislead yourself or your students. Sparring has value. It teaches many things and sparring categorically requires the wrong mindset if the training goal is self-defense.

Mr. Elmore, nicely done. You addressed the topic far more eloquently than I could ever-

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

minimal input in learning self-defense does NOT equal maximum output

ever hear the saying "you're preaching to the choir?" It means the pastor is giving a spiritual missive to the people who don't probably much need it because they already get it. They are the choir, backing you up every service.

Pretty sure what follows is preaching to the choir -

You can not learn reliable self-defense skills in one class, one day, one seminar or workshop.

You can learn about self-defense in one class. You can get a decent introduction to self-defense in a workshop and if done well, the workshop participants will end the day with a healthy dose of new information including how much they have yet to learn.

Getting clear about what you don't know you don't know is super helpful in personal safety and self-defense.

Take for example, building a hard-drive. If you know you know nothing (poor John Snow) - you at least have the chance to learn. You'll research hard-drives and how they go together and figure out what stuff you need. If you don't know that you don't have any idea how to build a hard drive, you'll grab a bunch of hard-drive looking stuff out of the junk drawers, glue them together and say Ta-Da! ....and be stunned when the damn thing doesn't work.

Applied to self-defense that equates to being stunned as you bleed out. Surprise.

This all seems fantastically obvious. So what I'm noodling on is this: given the obvious nature of the thing, why is it so many average humans are startled by the fact that learning how to defend yourself, is gonna' require time, effort, training, instruction and application of resources (most likely your money - but for sure your time)?

End of July and early August I get a number of inquiries from parents who suddenly see the college freshman orientation date looming and they freak a little. They want self-defense training for their daughters.

Me: okay great, when does she leave?
Parent: in two weeks.
Me: well.....that leaves us with mostly private lessons and we won't get much in but we'll do what we can. When is she free?
Parent: She's going on a trip with her friends for 4 days, and then she wants to work as much as she can for extra spending money, I think we can do maybe one lesson....for about 45 minutes... on Sunday afternoon at 4:30. Let me see if that will work for her though, Sundays she likes to go to the pool.
Me: not so silent face-palm......

This is a not a hypothetical example because the script is pieces of actual conversations mushed together.

I suppose there are people who would watch a prima ballerina and say - I could learn to do that in an hour.  People who are wrapped tightly in a Dunning-Kruger effect universe and never consider that there is a single thing out there they couldn't do with little or no training/experience. But I find it challenging to accept this is true of so very many people or that all the D-K folks happen to live in my county.

What is it about self-defense in particular that creates the expectation of minimal input = maximum output? Is this the hidden byproduct of the burgeoning black-belt factory mentality of dojos focused on after-school programs and black belted kids by the age of 8?  Or, is it deeper than this. Is it a result of our profound dissociation from our basic nature as predators?

I think both factor in. The first contributes through the commercialization of the coolness factor associated with a Gi wrapped with a black belt. The second is more subtle. It's sneakier and more pervasive. It is the perpetual state of Alice on the wrong side of Lewis Carroll's looking glass and when she falls through it - more than just the glass will shatter.

This little rant brought to you today by a phone call. A young woman who will be leaving in several months for a year of travel. Parents say - you need to get some self-defense training first. I'm like, all happy because I actually have some time with this one. Several months! By comparison to the other inquiries I get this time of year, this is a lifetime. While I'm all excited about this lead time - the inquirer is not. She was hoping just a class or two would be good enough.

Maybe we will see her anyway - it's a condition apparently for this adventure she has planned.

In the meantime. I'm losing my patience with the mindset.