Friday, September 2, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
After you get done laughing and saying, "Atta boy!" it's time to look at this from a mature and rational standpoint.
As of this writing, the family of the 'smaller' child is -- predictably -- making noise about suing everyone and everything for the excessive use of force Casey used on his attacker (their precious little darling).
Upon hearing this, a great many people in the so-called 'self-defense world' are rallying and ranting about the evil, injustice and how Casey has the 'right to defend himself' yada, yada, yada.
While it's tempting to say that one side is being irrational, the fact is both sides are defending their sacred cows. As is often the case of situations like this, emotions run high, and all kinds of folks want to hijack the issue for their own agenda, profit and to 'prove' they are right. (And prove that the other people are stupid, selfish, petty and incompetent, but that's just an extra bennie.) In short, this issue becomes more grist for the agenda mill.
When asked what I thought of this clip, I queried, "On which level?"
DAMN IT MACYOUNG! THERE YOU GO COMPLICATING THINGS AGAIN!
Why can't I join the rest of the mob being outraged at some aspect of this situation?
Because outraged people are stupid people. And mostly what they are doing are reconfirming their emotional monkey brain biases and desires for simplistic, convenient answers. (Who cares if it works or not? It's simple and convenient for us to believe this!)
Bad news, I don't complicate things. They do that by themselves. In fact, they come that way. Deal with it. But know, it's us wanting simplistic and easy answers that make us uncomfortable with complexity. That attitude can and does make it hard for us to deal with complex issues.
Violence to many people is an 'OH MAH GAWD! FREAK! FREAK!' issue. To me violence is like sex, when you're young, inexperienced, emotionally and hormonally driven, it's this huge, overwhelming and driving issue. That's less true the more experienced you are.
I remember the first time. I remember the last time. But all the times in between, I'm a little hazy about. As for all those other times, you only remember if it was really good or really bad. What's more, as you grow and mature, you put it in the bigger context of life.
I'm like that with violence, too. So when I see this video, I can see past my emotions and can discuss the resulting situation in a different light.
Before we discuss this issue, we have to address an elephant in the room. There are people in this world who believe that physical violence is NEVER acceptable. I would like to acknowledge this position, thank them for their opinion, and, now that we all know it, they can have a nice, big cup of STFU.
It's time for other people to express their position on the subject. I have to say this because Winston Churchill once said, "A fanatic is one who won't change his mind or the subject." I would like to add to this, "Or let anyone else present a differing point of view."
This is important because their constant yammering is distracting us from a very important truth. That is: Most people understand that sometimes physical force is necessary.
They may not like it. They may want someone else to do it for them. They think other people resort to it way too quickly, etc., etc. But underlying their preferred strategies is the understanding that sometimes you just have to use force.
The topic of hot debate is when to use it and when not to. As well it should be.
Violence is part of the human condition and is wired into our consciousnesses. It happens, deal with it. We need to hash it out among ourselves when we feel violence is appropriate -- with the firm understanding that most often, it's either inappropriate or there really is a better way to handle it.
It is into the discussion and acceptance of the reality that violence happens that the fanatics come swooping in. They come armed with their Johnny-One-Note war cry of NEVER! Add the wailing and gnashing of teeth about victims, abuse, trauma and horror, and you can't hear yourself think, much less listen to what anyone else has to say.
Try to have a conversation about working out when it is appropriate to use force with these NEVER folks around. You can't. Make a point, offer a compromise, sometimes even open your mouth or -- and God help you if you do -- point out an inconvenient fact, they'll go off on you. They're constantly pressing their extreme point of view trying to drown out everyone else.
The problem is emotions are contagious. When you get some barking moonbats, who's slobbering all over him or herself about how violence is NEVER acceptable, they're going to trigger someone else, who starts bellowing about the "right to defend oneself!" While that might sound more reasonable, the truth is, it's just as extreme as the other.
Namely because -- while there are all kinds of reasons why violence happens and how it happens -- most violence is not, I repeat NOT, self-defense. But if you call everything 'self-defense,' you have something you can use to combat the extremism of the NEVER crowd.
In the meantime, any rational discourse goes out the window. This results in most people just shaking their heads and moving away without ever addressing the issue. So maybe both camps need to have a cup of STFU because the adults are talking here.
We need to shake our heads clear of any extremist point of view and try to assess this situation from informed, mature and rational positions. A position that acknowledges the wisdom of Tom Robbins: Violence stinks no matter which side of it you're on. But now and then, there's nothing left to do but hit the other person over the head with a frying pan.
The question about this situation is: "Was it frying pan time?"
So here we are with two kids in a situation. Obviously, the small kid is the aggressor. Except, what I want you to pay close attention to are the two girls in the background. Cherche la femme. Casey is talking to the girls when the little banty rooster comes up and gets in his face.
Now it doesn't take too much imagination to suppose that Lil' Rooster is strutting his stuff to impress the chicks. (If you find that statement sexist and offensive, I'll just point to millions of years of carbonated hormones and human sexual behavior -- when you're young that's where it's at.)
What's also important, however, is, while Lil' Rooster is so busy acting out, what really happens with the young ladies. They leave. Strike three for impressing the girls by being a hyper aggressive jerk.
But you know what's most interesting? Watch 'when' they leave. Lil Rooster as he's hopping around, having punched Casey, does a quick over the shoulder check to see 'how he's doing' with the girls. That's when they walk away from the 'show.' It has become obvious that it is a show and display by Lil Rooster.
What else is obvious about Lil Rooster is, while he's willing to assault Casey, he isn't there to hurt him. I tell you this because if you really mean to injure or kill someone one, you have to close in hard and fast with knives or empty hand and set up conditions to inflict grave bodily harm. (This whether it is social or asocial violence:
Lil' Rooster's dancing around strongly puts this issue into the social violence category.
My comment about 'closing' should not be construed to mean that Casey was closing to injure Lil Rooster. Social violence (especially 'fights') often result in two people charging at each other like trains on the same tracks. When that happens, fighters collide. If you still want to ascribe that motive to Casey, then we also ascribe the same motive to Lil' Rooster when he charged up and slugged Casey earlier in the video. Hmmm, that's a can of worms we don't want to open.
But that brings up something that has been lost. First, there is a difference between pain and injury. Most people don't consciously know this. More than that, they mistake pain for injury. By it's nature, social violence is not designed to injure the other person. Oh sure, bumps, bruises and bloody noses, but those are not life threatening.
As a side point, the patterns of social violence are amazingly consistent with our design and reactions. In short, the human body is designed to take impact from the front, and that is coincidentally how we attack in most social violence.
There's also another important thing. The guy who's screaming in pain? Odds are he's not severely injured. You don't scream much when you've got a bullet in your brain or had a knife stuck in your diaphragm.
Humans, when seriously injured, tend to quietly curl up around the injury. It's arguable that this is to protect the injured part and not attract predators who would finish the job.
Keep this in mind next time you hear someone screaming bloody murder about the pain they are in when they are tazered or being held down by the police. People, not knowing pain vs. injury, often judge use of force by how much noise the person is making, instead of the results.
With that in mind, also look at what Lil Rooster does after he's slammed -- including trying to make a move to chase Casey and continue the altercation. That means he's still on the fight. Is there a chance that things are fractured? Yes. But if things were shattered, Lil Rooster wouldn't have been able to get up.
If you watch the video, after Lil' Rooster's first punch, it appears Casey is trying to talk to him. His body language does not indicate aggressive or insulting words. This is important because the wrong word choice and behaviors can escalate a situation that could have been talked down.
Lil' Rooster is on one already, and it probably wouldn't have mattered what Casey said. Lil' Rooster was there to make a show of it and hand out a beating. Yep, that's how it was going to work in his little, adrenaline-pumped, monkey-brained mind.
I counted five punches that Lil Rooster threw. Add that there were three 'grabs' to hold Casey. (The last one was aimed at Casey's head to create a head lock, and it failed.) Grabs are common when you want to hold someone in position while you hit him. There were two fakes (aborted attacks). Casey blocked one attack successfully, and some others looked like they ran into his counters.
Here's the issue on that, however. It looked like both kids had some kind of training. Lil' Rooster was doing the boxer's bounce, and Casey's left hand seemed pretty comfortable in the position for a slap block. You don't usually find that position so quickly and easily without someone showing you something.
So let's get onto the crash and smash. It is here that those who are wailing and gnashing their teeth are going to claim Casey used too much force.
Reality break #1: Fighting is dangerous. Even though social violence is the best way to limit injury, it still happens.
Subclause: The person getting injured could be you. If you can't accept that, don't step up.
Reality break #2: If you start a fight and you lose, you are NOT the victim. You are the loser of a fight.
With those two points in mind, let's look at what happened when Casey decided enough is enough. And, yes, children, that is a better descriptor than 'defending himself.' Sorry, self-defense 'advocates.' He'd taken enough punches and that was that. What we have here is technically known as a 'fight.'
Understanding this is important because Lil' Rooster isn't trying to escape. First, he tries to throw his arm around Casey's head for the headlock. Then he gets pushed and knocked off balance.
That's what happens when a larger person slams into you, and you don't have proper structure and balance to resist. It's part of that whole social violence safety check thing. The impact turns into a push. And when we try to resist, we're plowed along.
That's important because there's a big difference between being knocked over when we're not resisting and being 'wallered' around when we're trying to resist a force.
If Lil' Rooster had been knocked over or trying to flee, he would have immediately gotten distance. I'm talking his feet running to keep up with the rest of his body way over yonder. The fact that he was trying to push back (even as he was spun) is what resulted in that funky monkey dance.
Casey lands a headlock on Lil Rooster, and it looks like Lil Rooster 'falls' into Casey. Now you can argue that it's Casey pulling Lil' Rooster off balance. But it also can be a result of Lil' Rooster trying to push back into Casey and just not having the footing. (This is why it is so important to drop the whole victim/abuser paradigm and look at this as a fight.) It's not a matter of either being entirely the case, but rather a combination of both.
Then comes the pick up and slam. Remember I mentioned earlier the issue of closing to injure? Here is one of the ways it manifests. The best way to have killed or injured the kid would have not been to throw him away, but to hang on and do a straight down pile drive.
With Lil' Rooster's legs up in the air, keep him in that position, drop straight down, crush Lil' Rooster's skull and snap his neck on the concrete. That body slam was far more WWE than it was a killing move.
And it's something that, in anger and outrage, a big guy can do to a little guy. That's why it's not smart to dance around, punching big guys. (Take note, Lil' Rooster)
Here is where Casey really shows his self-control (aside from trying to talk to Li'l Rooster after he'd punched him). AFTER the slam, the first thing that Casey did was step away. This is Social Violence 101: Knowing when to stop.
Casey is spitting nails, but he WALKS away. He buys good distance before he stops and delivers his message. Had he lacked the same self-control as Lil' Rooster, he would have proceeded to stomp and kick Lil' Rooster.
This brings us back to the subject of social violence -- which this whole thing is.
Start with the hecklers egging Lil' Rooster on. This is a huge element of the status-seeking show (and outright assault on Casey). The audience is goading Lil' Rooster.
The call "he's laughin' atcha" is especially provoking for Lil' Rooster. It's also important because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Lil' Rooster showed up with his audience, intent on impressing everyone with what he was going to do to Casey
Also pay close attention to the fact that someone knew to have a cell phone out and filming Casey BEFORE Lil' Rooster stepped into frame.
Still another point, how fast it went violent. Very few people are capable of just exploding into physical violence. Even with sufficient provocation (which there wasn't here), Lil' Rooster had to woof before he swung.
Remember cherche le femme? If this had been over Casey talking to the one of the girls who Lil' Rooster thought of as 'his,' the girls wouldn't have kept their distance. Also one of the girls would have intervened with "Stop this Lil' Rooster!" (Free hint, younglings, women don't like being fought over like property).
These issues, plus the hecklers (and also the warning of 'who's that in the background?) are serious indicators that Lil' Rooster and his friends had not only whipped themselves up into a frenzy, but came to the situation with premeditation. Sure Lil' Rooster was the puncher, but he was acting with the support of the pack.
What's interesting is, after Lil Rooster started doing the 'owie dance,' the tall kid with the backpack calmly stepped up and positioned himself between Casey and Lil' Rooster. What I'm not sure of is if the tall kid is part of Lil' Rooster Fan Club or just a passer by.
When it comes to social violence, strangers can -- and often do -- intervene (like the girl coming through the breezeway did, as well).
The fact that the tall kid didn't spend too much time looking at Lil Rooster to see if he was okay makes me kind of wonder if there was any connection between the two of them or if he was just going that way and decided to intervene. Nor was he overtly aggressive like he was stepping up for his friend. Even though he followed Casey afterward, it's questionable if it was to continue aggression or if he was just going the same way.
So here you have all these social issues going on within what is, in essence, a fight. Sorry, folks, hollerin' about self-defense and bullying. But after the first punch landing, Casey pushing Lil' Rooster and running fiercely conforms more to self-defense.
As for bullying ... well that's another subject. See, here's where the damage has been done by the physical violence is NEVER acceptable crowd. Lil' Rooster discovered an important life lesson about what happens if you push someone too hard. A lesson that might end up with him spending six weeks in a cast (but apparently that didn't bother him as he was throwing all those punches).
The problem with violence is NEVER the answer is it ignores the realities of Sir Basil Liddell Hart's quote: It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types whether individual or nation can be bought off ... since the payment of the danegeld* stimulates demand for more danegeld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of a formidable opposing force.
But you'll never hear that point of view if you don't tell them, "Yes we know your opinion. Now let someone else speak for a change."(See I can be polite when I tell someone STFU.)
So here we are with a situation. What to do? What to do? Well being as I'm somewhat of a dinosaur in my thinking, I'll tell you how we handled it back in the days of ignorant, knuckle-draggers. Back then, teachers would come up to see two kids fighting. They'd wait until it became obvious that one kid or the other was losing. Then -- and only then when everyone watching knew who was boss hog -- would they step in and break it up.
Amazingly enough, they'd drag us both ... errrr... that is to say they would take the fighting children to the principal's office where BOTH parties got into equal trouble for fighting.
Take a look at this from a social standpoint. There were no victims, there were fighters. And yeah, bad news, if you fight you get winners and losers. But the monkey brain social issue is resolved for everyone to see. As is the fact there are still higher authorities; who frown on the fact you were breaking the rules by fighting. Sure fights happened, and if you were fighting, win, lose or draw, expect to get suspended. Thereby creating social order that allowed everyone to get along with their business.
Sorry to disappoint you guys who are cheering and yammering 'self-defense,' but a fight is a fight. And most fights are about establishing social status and other squishy rules that have to be handled between kids AND adults.
This especially applies to all the experts on bullying who want to jump into this subject and use it for their agendas. I hate to tell you this, folks, but Casey and Lil' Rooster did a fine job of figuring the issue out by themselves.
But me? I'm a hairy-knuckled barbarian, what do I know?
*lit: Danish gold paid to stop Viking raids. Hart mentions it because of the appeasement policies of Chamberlain's government with Hitler and the Nazis had worked out so well at preventing war.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Here's the story:
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - A man trying to help a girl from getting assaulted and beaten at a St. Paul bus stop spoke out about the night of the attack.
Eric Skripka, 33, was battered and bruised but he says he had to do something when he saw Brian Harper assaulting a girl while getting off the 16 bus on University Avenue in St. Paul.
"I recall her being in the defensive position trying to minimize the blows,” said Skripka.
He relied on his training as a military police officer in the Minnesota National Guard. Skripka explains that he stepped in to protect the defenseless young woman
Harper allegedly punched Skripka in the head and then once on the ground, witnesses report that the 18-year-old suspect held onto the glass wall as he kicked him five to ten times as hard as he could.
After the attack, Harper fled down an alley. Police found him hiding in this garage. Officers then brought him back to the scene where several witnesses identified him as the assailant.
On Monday, prosecutors charged Harper with assault in the third degree.
Skripka spent two days in the hospital and refuses to second guess his actions, calling them instinctual under the circumstances.
Simply stated, there are wrong ways to do the right thing.
Wrong ways that will get you into the same state (or worse) as this Good Samaritan.
When someone is actively engaging in physical violence, the LAST thing you want to do is run up ... and then start woofing at him. And yet, this is what entirely too many people (who end up like the Samaritan in the story) attempt to do.
What they don't understand is that if it's gone physical, it is past the threat display and posturing stage that precedes most physical violence. In short, this tactic puts you into the middle of a situation, but you are WAY behind the power curve. And the attacker knows it. So it is extremely likely that he will simply turn his physical violence onto you.
There are ways to close in and break up a physical assault. It can be effectively done and often in such a way that will end the confrontation -- and violence -- without further problems. But the raw truth is there are more ways ways for it to go wrong then there are ways for it go right.
Simply put, it has to be done a certain way. If you bring anything else into the formula or leave anything out, you'll get beaten. So while it can be done, don't try it without specific training about this very subject. By that I don't mean generic martial arts, mixed martial arts, 'reality based self-defense' or in the case of the Good Sam, even police defensive tactics. I mean training on how to break up fights and assaults.
So what can the average person do? Short answer: Let ol' Geronimo know the cavalry is comin'.
While running up to someone and yelling isn't a good idea, staying back and yelling, has a far better track record -- especially if you're yelling that the police are coming. It's even better if you're telling the truth.
911 on your cell phone, a "HEY YOU! I'M CALLING THE COPS!" and then giving the attacker's location and description will do a whole lot more to scare him off than running up, sticking out your chest and calling him names.
Violent people tend not to be scared of you, but they are scared of the police -- especially if the police show up while they are being violent. While the cops must be polite and restrained when the attacker isn't doing anything (or has done something) when the police show up and he is being violent ... all kinds of unpleasantness can happen. This includes him flopping on the floor while the taser does its five second cycle.
While some might see what I'm saying here as advocating not getting involved, that is not my point at all. I'm suggesting that there are better ways to get involved than just stepping up and volunteering for a beating.
And for the record, if the guy doesn't run when he knows you called the cops, even if he decides to come charging over to attack you -- then the cops are already on their way. This tends to be helpful. But let's say that you decide to ignore this distance strategy and run up. Even then, it's a good idea to call the cops before you go charging over like Superman to intervene. If nothing else they'll be there sooner to pull the guy off you.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I've long been a controversial character in the self-defense, martial arts world. So it should be no surprise to my detractors that I appeared on Showtime/Penn and Teller's 'Bullshit!' episode on martial arts. If you didn't see it, it will be run again on Showtime. If you don't have Showtime, you can see it here:
There's an old saying about religion. 'A fanatic and a believer can share the same pew.' You also can find 'Easter and Christmas services only' attendees sitting in the same pew. Basically, all kinds of people can be attracted to the same thing -- for many different reasons. I use this particular point because a strong parallel can be drawn with the behavior of people defending their faith and those who think the martial arts need 'protecting.'
Before we continue, there are some things that need to be said. First, when someone self-identifies with a group, there is a tendency to feel protective about it. Both about your choices and the group itself. This is especially common when you have gained benefit from what that group has to offer. And that brings us to the martial arts. Simply stated, there are many great benefits that one can gain from the study of martial arts: self-discipline, focus, concentration, health benefits, self-confidence, self-control. Yay! Good stuff.
Having said that: The martial arts will not GIVE you any of these.
These are attributes that you develop within yourself. The martial arts can be a powerful tool to help you develop these useful life skills. But they aren't automatically instilled by the style when you sign a contact at a commercial martial art school. Bottom line is all the great and wonderful changes that have come about in your life from studying the martial arts, came from you. The MA may have been the means through which you achieved them, but it was you who did the work.
Still, people tend to ascribe these life-altering traits TO the martial arts.With that comes another bit of baggage.When you feel you were saved from your former failings by the martial arts, there is a natural tendency to want to protect and defend the 'martial arts.' This creates a complex paradox. First is the love and the passion for something beneficial to you. Second is the knowledge that there's some bad stuff going on under the name of martial arts. Keep this mental jungle gym in mind, we'll come back to it.
Humans are very complex creatures. Very seldom do we do anything for just one reason. In fact, we often take simple concepts and add layers and layers on top of them so they serve not just one, but multiple, purposes. For example, 'eating.' From a functional standpoint, it is just about fueling your body. If that's all it is though, why do we hate to eat alone? Why do we have 'family' meals, much less holiday feeds, banquets and, yes, even culturally identifying eating restrictions?
This last point is important because so much of what we get out of the 'martial arts' isn't about MA at all, but about us as humans.
For example, social networking, belonging to a group, self-identifiers ('I belong to so-and-so school' or 'I am a martial artist'), a sense of rank in the hierarchy (what belt you are). These are important 'social' elements to the human psyche. And when I start talking about the social aspects of the martial arts, people think I'm being dismissive of them (e.g., it's just a frivolous hobby). In fact all of these elements are critical for our species' survival, our psychological well-being and the guidelines to how we conduct ourselves. I don't know about you, but those things sound a little deeper and more complex than the martial arts 'just being a hobby.'
This is some seriously deep stuff. Deep enough that it is fair to say, 'there are many people who have made the martial arts their religion.' As such, we can point out a similarity in tactics when it comes to 'protecting' something they greatly self-identify with.
The first tactic is simple. No matter what the misconduct done in the name of (fill in the blank), it is excused as "the perpetrator(s) is not a 'true' (fill in the blank)."
You can see this in action by pointing out the historically documented misconduct of the different organized religions. Or in this case, what other people are doing in the name of 'martial arts.' This approach both covers, but also distances oneself, from a plethora of sins committed in the name of martial arts.
The most common version is 'they are not doing real (fill in a style or even generic 'martial arts').
This tactic has several uses. From a technique standpoint, if a school or instructor -- who is teaching the same style you practice -- has dangerously bad body mechanics, you've just dismissed them, protected your beliefs AND your allegiance to the style. When in fact, how do you really know your body mechanics are any better? As an outside observer, I've seen dojo and flame wars over flawed body mechanics. Both sides were arguing over what was the 'right way' to do a move, when, in fact, neither method was functional outside the confines of those particular dojos.
From a social/psychological standpoint, it allows us to maintain a positive sense of identity with a group (and the benefits) without having to own - and possibly clean up -- the bad behavior of those who also identify themselves with the group.
Do you know of a particularly bad practitioner or school owner whose actions you not only disagree with, but are embarrassed by? Okay. What are you doing about it?
I'm not talking about dojo wars (and, yes, boys and girls I am old enough to remember dojo-busting). I'm talking about actively going out and warning people away from the pitfalls of both pseudo AND bad training. Are you giving people the tools and knowledge to recognize bad training when they see it?* Are you doing this without benefit to yourself? (I.e., "What they do over there is bad, come study with us instead.") Are you teaching people body mechanics you've double checked with a physician or physical therapist to see if repetitive movement the way you do the technique is injurious? When you have done that, you can explain why you need to turn your foot or bend your knee before you pivot on a weight-bearing leg. ** Are you researching the legal complications and problems of 'self-defense?'
Or is it easier to just say, "What they do over there isn't real (fill in the blank)" and carry on doing what you are doing?
Here's a problem with that.When you are inside a group, you can go through these mental gymnastics and -- to you at least -- it looks like you've bought yourself all kinds of distance from such misconduct.What's more, you've just reinforced the group's identity and righteousness (we do it right here).
But to an outsider, you've just blown your credibility.
To an outsider, you both are teaching the same thing. If you start with the who's real and who isn't, you've undermined the credibility of the whole thing. If that guy over there is screwing up and you don't own it, why should they trust you? Because you tell them to? Oh yeah, that works.
An outsider will judge the entire group, not only by the misconduct of those 'others,' but how YOU respond to the issue. Outsiders don't make the subtle distinctions between your school and another. By using the 'real' excuse, you've just told them there's a huge can of worms about politics and rivalries within the group. And instead of being honest about it, you are a participant. Now why the hell should they get involved in that kind of game?
At the same time, people who DO say okay are the ones who like to play these games. Gee, you've just self-selected for dojo politics in your school.
The second common tactic is the apologist (also known as 'the excuser'). That is when people justify bad behavior because ...
Two points must be made here. First is the concept of 'abusus non tollit usum' (abuse does not preclude proper use). We also can turn that around to 'proper use does not justify abuse.' There are legitimate aspects of martial arts training that ARE being abused by unscrupulous school owners. For example, making people instruct classes for you as part of their rank advancement while they are paying student fees. That isn't just free labor, that's getting people to pay you to work for you, as well as make money for you.
The second point is: "Humans are not rational animals, they are rationalizing animals." (I got that from my psych class in college). To protect our beliefs and cherished ideals, we can do all kinds of mental gymnastics.While some will only go so far, others would make a monkey gulp in disbelief with the extreme gymnastics they do in their mental jungle gym. As humans, we can come up with excuses and reasons why what we are doing is okay -- even if it really is not kosher.
I point these out because often, in the defense of the martial arts, we condemn the 'bad behavior' of others and self-justify our doing the exact same thing. Then we get pissed when someone paints us with the same brush. How's that for a good self-rationalization?
Instead of decrying the Penn & Teller show as 'lumping all martial art training together' and finding fault with the program, take a good hard look at what YOU are doing. This, especially if you're doing something that was pointed out in the show.
Are you helping to educate people about how to find quality martial arts? Are you giving them realistic expectations? Or are your tactics reinforcing the general public's idea that the martial arts are filled with fruitcakes, barking moonbats, sadist/masochists, con men and people with deep psychological issues?
Penn and Teller have just exposed an ugly underbelly of the business of martial arts. One that has long been apparent to outsiders, but one that insiders have willfully ignored, justified and, in many cases, participated in. I see a lot of squealing about what martial artists saw on the episode or pretence you're better than (or apart from) these problems. Well bad news folks, you're not. If you've self-identified yourself as a martial artist, much less an MA instructor, then while you might not be painted with the same brush, you will be splattered by the kind of misconduct.
The bottom line is this: Instead of trying to dismiss the Penn & Teller episode (because it points out legitimate problems with something that you put great value in -- the martial arts) why don't you go out and do what you can to counter these trends in the martial arts? And if you claimi the show was biased or what these people are doing isn't 'real' martial arts, you might want to show outsiders why they should believe your contention that they saw on the show isn't representative of all martial arts.
I know that, you know that. But just saying "that isn't 'real' martial arts" or the show was flawed isn't going to fix years of misconduct by people in the name of 'martial arts.' You'll get a lot more miles out of saying, "Yeah, there's a lot of misconduct done in the name of martial arts and self-defense. But here's how to tell the good from the bad."
You'll do more to protect the reputation of the martial arts with that strategy than you'll ever get by bad mouthing the show and squealing how unfair and biased it was.
And, if what you saw on the show reflects your business practices (or the culture of your school), you'll do even more for the MA if you knock it off. The cat's out of the bag about these business practices and people are going to be looking for them -- before they sign the contract.
** That isn't magical, mystical or ancient deadly warrior art, that's documentable physiology, safety and sports medicine.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I was watching a documentary on movie director Oliver Stone. They were discussing Stone's movie "Natural Born Killers" and someone mentioned that the movie was misunderstood. If you remember, there was an outcry about the movie glorifying crime and violence. This guy said the movie was not a glorification of violence. In fact, he claimed it had been a condemnation of the media for doing just that. Specifically, it was about how the media makes stars out of violent people, thereby encouraging them to commit more and more acts.
I have some first hand experience with this idea. The first time I was shot at (when I was 14) was from a car. The last time I was shot at was from a car. In the twenty years in between, at least half of the bullets directed at me came from cars. In short, drive by shootings were just a fact of life from where I'm from. While they weren't an everyday thing, they weren't uncommon either.
However, in the '90s there was a drug war going on in South Central Los Angeles. The Crips and the Bloods were the equivalent of modern day cartels and they were busy shooting each other up. What didn't get a lot of media coverage was the drug trafficking angle. What did get a lot of coverage was the carnage. That was when the media adapted a "If it bleeds it leads" editorial policy.
And drive by shootings went through the roof.
Oh yeah, realize that 'drug wars' is a misnomer.They aren't like actual wars with pitched battles between armies. What they are closer to is two sets of insurgents battling each other. Mostly it's hit and run trying to pick away at the other side -- with innocent civilians being the ones who bleed the most. A lot of the people hurt in those drive by shootings weren't even involved, they were -- to use a term from gang parlance of the time -- mushrooms. Like mushrooms that pop up on the lawn, they were just there to get mowed down. It was the innocent bystander dying -- these mushrooms -- that made drive bys 'news worthy.'
And quite frankly, I'm not just talking about callousness of the shooters. It wasn't a gang member, but the news director of a television station who -- upon hearing of a multiple person homicide just blocks away -- exclaimed loudly to the news room "SWEET!" If it bleeds it leads, folks.
I'm not entirely blaming the media for the increase of drive by shootings. After all there WAS a drug war and you are talking about violent dysfunction criminal assholes pulling the trigger. But I will draw your attention to the 'star effect' of the If-it-bleeds-it-leads policy.
After machine gunning a house or business (and killing others than just the target) gang members would rush home to see how many news programs THEIR murdering people appeared on. The more stations that covered it, the more bragging rights you got. And quite frankly, the more 'mushrooms' you got the greater the coverage.
Does this sound sick and twisted? Good.
But you need to realize something, there are sick and twisted people out there who hunger for their '15 minutes of fame.' And these days, many of them don't care if it costs them their lives. See quite frankly, 'what's inside of their heads' is such a dark and twisted snake pit that preserving it isn't all that appealing.
On the other hand, going out in a blaze of glory shows that they are not weak, twisted and useless. This has great appeal. And it has the added benefit of hurting the world they blame for their own screwed up existence.
But I really want you to pay attention to the fame angle. Because going out slaughtering people beats plain suicide hands down. For one blazing moment in time, THEY are going to be all over the media. In their minds, everyone will know who they are and recognize their power. The media coverage the rampage shooter's carnage creates this fame. That is a moment of power and glory that is far more important than their survival.
Incidentally, while this doesn't totally apply to suicide bombers, many of these elements are present -- including the well orchestrated local 'fame' of the bomber. It is done BY the organization sending the suicide bombers. When you see professionally manufactured posters, placards and signs extolling the virtues of the bombers, learn about the financial support of the bomber's family, walls of martyrs and children playing bomber and mourners in the streets, you realize these are not spontaneous acts of rage. They ARE part of a well orchestrated campaign to exploit this kind of personality.
As I've said, to this kind of dark and twisted personality, continued existence isn't that important. Striking out at the world and the ensuing fame is. (In fact I once heard an interesting statement "A serial kills the same person over and over again, a suicide murders the whole world at once. I don't know how accurate that is, but it is worth considering.) It's almost as if the attitude is if you can't do any good for the world, then hurt it. So instead of just shooting oneself one can share one's pain by hurting others and commit 'suicide by cop.'
And you know what? When one person does this and gets media coverage ... odds are another will do it too. That's why these spree shootings, rampage shootings, school shooters and what police call 'active shooters' tend to happen in clusters. One guy does it and another says "Hey, good idea!"
Now the simple truth is that these things are extremely rare. Every day BILLIONS of people go to school, work and shopping without some lunatic opening fire on them. Think about that, it's important.
What makes it seem like such a pressing danger is a blend of the media and our little emotional brains overwhelming our logical brain. In our little monkey brain (http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/monkey_dance.htm ) we see something as both real and immediate even though it isn't close to us.
Here's a question that most people will -- thankfully -- answer 'none' to. In the last year, how many rampage shootings have occurred 20 miles from where you are sitting right now? 50 miles? 100 miles? Try tweaking the question to 'In the last 20 years...."
See what I mean by saying they really aren't that common? You logically know this. As I write this there have been five shooting sprees and officer deaths
in the last month. NONE of them closer than a 1000 miles from where I
am sitting. And I'm sitting 40 miles away from Columbine High School.
(BTW, notice you can still remember that? That's fame) While our
logical minds know we are safe, I figure a lot of people's monkey
brains are pretty active.
And why not, when you turn on your TV, they seem purdy durned close don't they? Our emotional minds are uncomfortable with the threat of being caught in such a situation.
So maybe we might want to learn something to do about it?
The problem is, I've heard a number of 'policies' about what to do when a shooter shows up. Quite frankly, I'm not impressed. These answers tend to be be more oriented towards the school/organization interests than keeping you from getting shot.
Having BEEN shot at on numerous occasions, I thought I'd offer up some advice based on first hand experience. Stuff that has actually worked to keep my hide from getting bullet holes in it.
You can find the nuts and bolts information about how to survive a shooting spree here
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I run a very busy e-mail list on personal safety, self-defense, et all. What was the source of debate among folks was the ineffective attempts by a few bystanders to stop the attack on the woman. It's not that they weren't trying to save her life (I believe -- amazingly -- that she lived), but they really didn't have a response that was appropriate to immediately end that level/degree of attack. As such the attack continued for a very long time.
A few Americans (who had experience with this level of situations) responded with "I'd shoot him."
This brought a response from a British woman about the knee jerk attitude of killing the man. Being as she had never been in a life and death situation she (as near as I can tell) honestly couldn't understand why other alternatives could not be used to stop him before resorting to blowing his brains into a fine pink mist. The speed that these people came to the conclusion to just kill the guy unnerved her.
While it would be easy to say it is the old "Americans are gun nuts" and "Europeans live in a nanny state" argument coming up again like an encehilda burp, I don't believe it is. Having been to Europe several times and dealing with both the general public and different countries anti-terrorist squads, I can assure you, that while the average European wouldn't have the ability or will to shoot, those units would shoot PDQ. In fact, they would shoot faster than most American citizens -- even those with CCW permits. There are some very seriously hard core Europeans protecting the rest. But this woman wasn't one of them. As near as I can tell, she really didn't understand why these people were talking about killing this man outright instead of trying other options or shooting to wound.
But stop and think about this, how different is her reaction from the American media and 'community' outrage every time a police officer shoots someone? Why couldn't they have used less than lethal force? Oh why oh why did that poor innocent person have to die? (If by innocent person you mean the crackhead with a knife who's threatening people).
In attempting to explain to her, it dawned on me that maybe this information needs to be disseminated to the American public as well. So if you've never understood why the police shoot someone (especially with a knife). Or, if you are yourself a meat eater and have vainly tried to explain to someone why the level of force you had to use was appropriate -- you might want to take a look at the following model.
Each of these indicate a level of potential threat/danger.
Levels 1 to 2 are issues that can be resolved with a stern look.
3 to 4 go so far as a harsh word.
5 to 6 require verbal threat display (yelling screaming, etc).
7 is mild physical intervention ( a slap or 'sitting on someone').
8 is more force required.
9 is serious force.
10 is lethal force, immediately applied and without hesitation
Very few people have any experience with anything beyond level 7. This is important because basically past level 8, you are not playing for the same 'goals' as are common for 7 and below. Therefore you cannot judge level 8 and above by level 7 and below standards.
Below 7 the stakes are usually social status, pride and maintaining social order. Past 8 the stakes are much higher. In fact, level 10 boils down to what Martin Luther King once said:
The question is no longer between violence and non-violence; it is between non-violence and non-existence.
That non-existence is either yours or someone else's. Now slap your hand on the table again, that's how fast non-existence can -- and does -- happen at level 10. (For example, any one of those strikes on the woman could have been the one that did fatal damage). That slap on the desk is the amount of time yours or someone else's non-existence is decided. It is that extreme, and the stakes ARE that high. If you have never faced this level of violence, it is difficult to realize that the immediate application of lethal force IS a rational and reasonable choice given the parameters. It is in fact, the best chance for you not to be numbered among the dead.
Level 10 responses are also based on a whole lot of experience with intervening and having the guy turn on you. NEVER forget this is a very real danger. For example, an old friend of my father's was a patrol cop. They rolled on a domestic violence call and pulled up to see the guy on the porch with his wife on her knees with a shotgun to her head. As they were getting out of the car, he pulled the trigger. Looking up at them he raised the shotgun towards them ...
At the inquest he was asked why he had shot the man six times. He replied "I ran out of bullets."
He told me he'd just seen this guy shoot his wife in front of cops and then point that gun at those same cops ... he didn't figure the guy wanted to talk. That's a level 10 situation.
The last time I got shot at, I was doing bodyguard work. I was escorting the client to her car when I saw the laser site 'paste her' first and travel towards me. I tackled her just before the guy opened fire. Rolling off her, I got my own gun out and I returned fire while charging his car. He floored it and drove away.
Level 10. And it went from walking to a car to a firefight in less than two seconds.
A couple of years ago the Denver PD got a call about a black kid trying to kill his mother with a knife. Upon arriving the first officer through the door encountered the kid, holding a big kitchen knife and standing less than seven feet from him. The officers behind him stopped him from retreating. He ordered the kid to drop the knife, the kid took a step towards him. Level 10, the kid was DRT (dead right there).
Later it was discovered that the kid was retarded. The knife didn't have much of a point, yada, yada, yada. The hue and outcry against why the police had to use lethal force on the poor innocent child went on ad nauseum. I went on TV and radio to explain to people that you can get dead in the blink of an eye at that range with a knife. And point or no, a 10 kitchen knife is a deadly threat. While it was tragic that the kid died, it was still deemed a clean shooting because of the known circumstances at the time. The 911 call stated that the kid was trying to kill his mother, the same kid had a knife, refused a lawful order and approached the officer in a confined space -- with that knife. The vocal community however, didn't want to hear about that. (The city of Denver later crucified the cop to appease the 'community' but they did it on issues not related to the shooting).
My point is, that to people who have never faced a level 10 situation it is often difficult to grasp that immediate lethal force IS the fastest, safest and most effective way to save a life ... and quite often that life is your own. They are still playing for the standard goals of up to level 7. The simple fact is up until about level 7 and 8 there are ALL kinds of other options. From 8 up, there really aren't that many options ... and usually the safest option is to get there fastest and more effectively.
Realize that level 10 situations don't 'just happen.' A lot has gone on before it got to that point. While you may just have come around the corner and found it, the guy who has taken it to level 10 has been working it for a while. He's worked up to full steam and if you have any hopes of either surviving -- or saving someone else's life -- you gotta be able to recognize where you are transport into same mindset without diddly farting around.
If this video were a simple beating, then maybe a less extreme response would have been feasible. If he'd been just sitting on her chest punching her, then the attempts of the people to stop the beating would have been appropriate. But that's not what was happening. He was sitting on her chest with a knife attacking her in a vital target area. The fact that the woman didn't die right there was amazing (he was actually kind of picking at her with the knife). Realize however that with a different style of attack or a lucky shot, even a 1/4 inch wound to the neck area can be fatal. This is why, when you are talking about level 10 situations, the time it takes to slap your hand on the table can be fatal is not hyperbole.
Let me also state that level 10 situations are rare. Having said that, they do occur. And the use of the term 'rare' is relative. Overall they are rare, in other circumstances/lifestyles they are common. In fact, in some lifestyles/circumstances it is a survival trait. It is only in comparison of those circumstances to the myriad of other possibilities that make it rare (e.g. every day a billion people get up and don't face these circumstances, but a few hundred thousand do).
If you're one of those billion of people, it is often hard to understand the conditions that those few hundred thousands have to operate under. This is the source of a lot of confusion and misunderstanding between those who have been in level 10 situations and those who haven't. Those who have never faced these extremes don't realize that degree of force is the logical, rational and most effective option. Remember, that extremes are extremes because they take away other, more palatable options.
So take this idea of a violence scale and next time you hear people going on about a police shooting try applying it to both the situation and what the people are saying. I think you'll be surprised by the difference in your thinking.