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Monday, August 27, 2012

Game over

The topic of sport training vs. “predator” (practical application) training seems to be a hot topic as of late. I can honestly speak on this topic from personal experience.
I have a sport background. My first training was geared toward tournament. Sparring, randori… it was awesome!!!  I loved it, I swore by it.  I had such a blast training this way. It gave me an amazing physical fitness. I felt good, I looked good. I became good enough to win my tournaments. I was feeling invincible…Wonder Woman… move aside. It is a great ego booster. All and all I thought I was the shit.

But I got older and I soon came to the realization that what I needed to focus on was more the self-defense aspect of things. After all I was never going to have a career in sport; at this point it was feeding my ego more than anything else. So I decided to apply what I already knew to practical self-defense. If you can kick butt in the arena, why should you not be able to kick butt on the street right? Same thing, different location.  This was my first mistake.

My first wakeup call came after I met Kasey. When paired up with him I always ended up getting my butt handed to me on a platter. Not even close to be a fair fight. What??? Was Wonder Woman slipping off? I soon realized that if I had been a man in his weight class (and having his skill set), I might have had a fighting chance using what I knew, but I was not. I also realized that the predators (criminals) looking to attack me would most likely look more like him than they look like the female opponents I was used to fighting. Hmmm…. Shift in paradigm. Losing in the arena is one thing, losing in real life, out of the street, is not acceptable to me. I value my life.

So instead of retreating in my safe little world of weight classes and same gender partner, I decided to seek out why I could not beat him at this game. I paired up with anyone and everyone bigger and stronger than myself, specifically males. Kasey was a great help. I became better at learning much more efficient techniques. I focused on better body mechanics and less flashy moves. This definitely improved my skills.

In theory, I could now take Kasey down.  But I had one more obstacle in my path. I was still tied in the sport mentality. I was still trying to have a fair fight with him. I don’t care how good I am… that is never going to happen. Any male opponent will be pound for pound stronger than myself. So unless I was going to be attacked by a 7 year old crippled kid, I needed to switch gears…. again.

The switch for me happened with the help of Kasey (again…. I am seeing a pattern here).   I had to change from sport mentality to a “predator” mentality to make up for the discrepancy in size, weight, strength, age, surprise, speed, ferocity.  The first 4 things, there is nothing I can do to change them. But in the last 3 lies a way to even the odds.  First I had to learn (through some amazing teachers: Marc MacYoung, Rory Miller and Kasey Keckeisen) what violence was really about.  You can’t prepare yourself for something when you have no idea what you are preparing yourself for looks like. Hollywood does a very poor job at describing the reality of violence. I have not lived this life so I needed the help of people who understood what real violence is.  This knowledge alone will spare me getting trapped in most violent encounters I may come across.

The violent predicaments I (as a female) am most likely to face are coming from predators using asocial violence. You don’t see very many women (well not my age anyway) at the bar, starting a fight with other people over who’s the best, who looked at who the wrong way. Yeah I know it happens but on a far lesser scale than it happens with males.
The majority of what today’s men call violence is really social dominance rituals 
Social violence in nature is the violence used within a species.  This violence is very different from violence used against other species.  The dominance games of bears pushing and mouthing is very different from how they hunt prey.  Social violence includes ritualized jockeying for territory or status, acts to prove group solidarity, and violence to enforce the rules of the group. Most all animals have ritualized combat between males of the same species to establish dominance.  Rams butt heads, Bears wrestle, and Deer fence with their antlers.  Humans fist fight and wrestle.  Human dominance game (monkey dance) will follow a few distinct steps you have all seen before

·         Hard, aggressive stare
·         Verbal challenge – “What are you Looking at”
·         An approach, with signs of adrenalization  - gross motor actions arms swinging, chest bobbing skin flushing
·         Squaring off (hey diddle diddle right up the middle) and contact chest bump – push / shove
·         Repeat as necessary until…
·         Big Looping over hand punch (almost always right handed hey maker)

Thousands of generations of man have been conditioned to play this game.  It is very easy to get sucked into and very hard to walk away from.

It may be hard to walk away from but, this is the majority of violence most men will see.  It is also the most unnecessary and the easiest to avoid.
 No matter who said what, who made contact first or who threw the first punch with all the opportunities for preclusion (leaving) there is no self defense here. 

Serious injuries are rare in the monkey dance and usually occur by accident a broken fist or someone slipped and hit their head.  The ritual combat of social violence is genetically designed NOT to be life threatening.  Elk “fight” for mates head on antler to antler (damage unlikely). Elk drive off predators by goring their antlers into the sides of the predator puncturing organs (potentially fatal).
If you had a green screen and could remove the bar background and super impose a UFC style cage social violence would look a lot like a sport art competition.

Sport arts are great at social violence.   The ritual combat of social violence is genetically designed NOT to be life threatening. Although a crime, sport arts are great for teenage “meet me after school” , and 20 something bar fights.

This is not so for most women, like I said previously. Not counting domestic violence, which is an entirely different topic all together, most violence encountered by women will be coming from predators. Predators are more like hunters. Hunters chase things/people/animals from another specie.

Until men understand what it’s like to be over powered, intimidated and bullied by much stronger, scarier opponents than them, they can’t tell me how to react to it. They can’t tell me not to be scared.
But one man (Kasey) told me instead to think like them. What???? You want me to become a predator? “No I want you to think like one”.  Thinking like a predator will not turn me into one anymore than standing in a garage will turn me into a car.  And what better way to learn to defend myself against a predator is there than to know how predators think, and then head them off at the pass. Predators do not want to fight fair; they don’t really want to fight at all. They just want to win, enjoy their “prize”. They want to stack the odds in their favors so it guarantees them the win. They want to dominate the entire time so they can get their “payday”. This is their job and they will be damn good at it. I need to tip the scale in my favor.

 But if I start this from a sport point of view, I am already, at least, one step behind him. The sport point of view is part compassion, part destroying your opponent with some dose of fairness. And all of you who rolled their eyes just now and thought “BS… I show no compassion”… that thought itself is BS. If you had zero compassion, every one of your partners/ opponents would be maimed or killed. You’d run out of them really rapidly. And you would also most likely be a sociopath.
So I need to start in that frame of mind. This is the part of my previous training that was damaging to me. When stressed out I go back to my old sport training, my conditioning. In the back of my mind is “the fair fight” rule. Even if it’s not conscious, it’s there. I need to forge new, stronger neurological pathways. Because when I get in that predator frame of mind, I can destroy my opponent. Surprise, speed, ferocity is now in my court, and if used correctly it will give me the advantage to either win or buy enough time to skedaddle to safety.  
Defense against a predator attack has nothing to do with ego and trophy winning. The only trophy I seek is my safety and well-being.

And again, sport training is fantastic!!! Just decide what you are training for and don’t delude yourself into thinking that because you can win a street fight , since you are so bad ass, that you will prevail against a predator attack.  This goes especially for women training this way. They can get the false illusion that they are Wonder Woman. You are not!!!!
Be smart, stay safe!

Playing in the danger zone

If you insist on playing with fire, you will most likely get burned. If you insist on friendships that you know will bring trouble, don't be surprised when trouble hits!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fighting back... the right way

Here is a great article about a woman fighting off an attacker. 
Props to Melissa Soalt for finding this little gem. Thanks

So many great learning points in this story.

·         This IS asocial violence, the violence most likely to happen to women.

·         This is an ambush, it came from behind. He waited that she could not see him before he pounced. He is taking advantage of a surprise attack to stack the odds in his favor.
·         He was trying to isolate her, a definite sign of asocial violence.

·         The things that made her fit the victim profile were: she was a woman, she was alone, and she was most likely smaller. She may have been distracted, it’s hard to say. But she made up for those  drawbacks by:
1.      being in good condition (she was a runner),
2.      using  a busy path (lot of witnesses)
3.      Running in the daytime (vs being out at night in the dark).
Her actions were the proper ones:
1.      After being shoved in the bushes she tried to get back up immediately. Recover, recover, recover. Don’t let a surprise attack stun you to the point of immobility. This is what the attacker expects
2.      She refused to get dragged into an isolated area. Nothing good will ever happen in an isolated area. The attacker wants no witnesses and privacy to do his dirty deeds.
3.      She refused to let herself become a victim “no, no, not me”. She had the right mental attitude. “You done picked on the wrong woman, asshole.”
4.      She made as much noise as she could. Again he wants no witnesses and privacy. Attracting a crowd does not serve his purpose.
      She became too much trouble. She became more expensive to the attacker than she was valuable. He is off seeking a more suitable prey.

·         When he ran off, she did not try to run after him to teach him a lesson. She ran to safety.
·         She flagged someone down but did not get in his car (could have been the same attacker or another criminal). She did not let fear make her run into an even worse situation. Getting into a stranger’s car could mean some serious trouble. She tried to not be alone until she reached her home. Use the crowd advantage to deter any would be assailants.
·         She called the cops as soon as she could. It’s their job. Let them find the threat and serve him a slice of justice.

This woman’s reaction to the situation kept her safe and potentially saved her life. You need to do everything you can to remove yourself from the victim profile list. But there is time when poop just happens.  This was one of those “poop moment” for her.  When you understand how violence can happen, you will have the proper choice of actions and reactions. This is your best chance to go home in one piece.

She did not have to use any difficult techniques, she did not even use striking or kicking. She use common sense and the knowledge of how violence happens. That saved her and prevented her from getting into a physical contest that she may or may not have won. I am not saying that you never need to use physical violence. There are times when that’s all you have. Better use it well.  I am saying that by using knowledge you may avoid the need for physical violence. You also may avoid the risk of getting hit back.

Educate yourself!!!!

Be smart, stay safe.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Violence Dynamics Seminar in Minnesota!!!

Sign up early for this AWESOME clinic!! The seating is limited and you'll be kicking yourself for missing it.... or I could volunteer to kick you if you prefer... :)
Seriously... you will NOT get greater instructors all under one roof. They are the best at what they do, and what they do... works

Minnesota Violence Dynamics Seminar

"Improving the quality of communication skills and use of force skills available to you under high stress dynamic situations."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Modern Technology

Life in the 1800’s was simple. Maybe difficult by today’s standard but it still was very simple. 

If an anti-matter bomb (grin and bear with me, just using this for an analogy) were to detonate during those years, the general life style would not really be affected for those who survived. Life would go on as normal: work, eat, sleep, play.  But if the same bomb would explode today, we would be devastated. Think of all the things that would stop working for us:  phones, computers,  cars, utility plants, all big farms, stores, businesses, hospitals, banks, stoves, refrigerators. We would revert to an apocalyptic state because our lives have learned to depend on all those things. What would have been a luxury, like a washing machine, in the 1800 is a common staple today. What makes our lives so much easier and supposedly simpler would now make it a total nightmare. Let’s face it, very few people know how to grow or procure their own food (I mean ALL your food supplies), how to build or repair an engine, how to make their own clothes, how to care for their health emergencies.  Have all this technology made us more sophisticated or just lazy?
Where am I going with this on a SD blog? Same thing happens in some of the teachings that are passed as SD nowadays. People have made them so complicated that I doubt they would save your life if you needed it to. Has all this “newfound knowledge” made us safer or just lazier and dumber?  With all the Hollywood propaganda, have you become impervious to bullets? Can you climb walls to avoid bad guys? Will you be able to do spinning back kick and disarm a guy whose intent is to kill you? You need to get back to the basics, the fundamentals. You need to be able to protect yourself as this is the most basic human need. You can be good at growing a garden, mechanics, cooking, medicine, but none of those will help you if you are dead because you could not simply defend yourself. If you really want to provide, first provide yourself with safety.

I am all for using tools to defend yourself, whatever will work should be used if it will save your life. But tools, be it sticks, gun, Taser, pepper spray, rocks, should not be your entire repertoire. Tools can break, tools can be dropped, tools can be taken away from you, tools can be too difficult to reach at the crucial time. You need to be able to use your body if the need arise. Don’t forget to train in ALL aspects of self defense… including and especially your brain and common sense!!!

Remember to keep things simple. Defending yourself does not require fancy techniques, flashy kicks or spinning back fists. A move will not save your life because it looked pretty. The things that will save your life are simple basic principles. Know them, learn them, ingrain them.

A great, easy and functional way to ingrain was taught to me by my sensei.: “Exercise with a purpose” .  Instead of just doing your basic lifts and dips, push ups and lunges, adapt those exercises to re-create the motions you are trying to ingrain. You are achieving the same benefits of all the typical exercises but you have the added benefits of ingraining some basics.

Be smart, stay safe!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Handicap or advantage?

I am sure you are all familiar with Oscar Pistorius , the first amputee, double amputee at that,  to compete in track at the Olympics. What an inspiration and a performance.  We all heard talk of “enhanced performance”, that the “Cheetah prosthetic holds certain design advantages over the human leg”. Obviously the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had already ruled deeming there was insignificant evidence to support this.

I remember hearing the announcer saying: “I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I think a double amputee may have an advantage in a race”. A double amputee having an unfair advantage in a race? That seems crazy… or does it?  Sometimes what may seem to be a handicap may very well indeed be an amazing tool.

By now I am sure you all know that I train mostly with larger younger men who are very very skilled, and of course much stronger than myself. This can be intimidating. And how many times have I heard from Kasey and Rory “You are not trusting the techniques you are doing”….  no kidding… I started training with Rory’s blind fold drills and it was great. While I was blind folded, I was better…. amazing! But still the stupid bells didn’t fully ring… it takes a while to reach the attic in my brain I guess.

Last weekend I was training with Kasey. We did a lot of boken work (wooden practice sword).  And during one of the drill (at least one) I was slow and just could not get the hang of it. It did not matter that I had done this drill before, that I should have been proficient with it.  Then all of a sudden, not sure why (must be one of God’s winks) I closed my eyes and my boken was touching Kasey’s chest. Low and behold I could easily feel what he was about to do, read it and flow with it easily. And that’s when it dawned on me, it was not the techniques I did not trust, it was my eyes. I let myself get intimidated with what I saw. Kasey is pretty intimidating for those of you who don’t know him

I got nervous and messed things up. When I get nervous, I’ll forget my own dang name, so never mind try and pull a technique. Under adrenaline dump, you can get tunnel vision. Plus my eyes are slow, much slower than my tactile capabilities. Eyes can lie much easier. There is so much information that is caught with our eyes, our brain has to filter it, and give us what we want to see most of the time. This explains why you will have 2 people describe very differently a violent crime they witnessed. The adrenaline was pumping for everyone; what they saw  through a filter of their own experiences. This also explains optical illusions.  Your visual sense is much easier to fool than your tactile sensory system.
My theory on the subject stems from the OODA loop. 

You first have to observe, then you orient yourself, you decide on the proper course of action and you act on it. With just tactile information you skip the observe part. You don’t have to know that: “it’s noon, the sun is in my eyes, this guy outweighs me by 100lbs, he has an extremely mean look on his face, like he wants to kill me”.  All the info you have is “a right handed punch is coming at me”. It’s much easier to decide what to do at this point. You are not letting yourself get swayed by all the other psychological aspects: “he is huge, he could kill me, he looks like he wants to kill me, there is no way I can beat him, he is so much stronger than me”. Too much information can just slow down the entire process.
Another big factor that happened here as well is what I will call “My name is Neo” phenomenon. For those familiar with The Matrix, this comes from the scene when Neo first fights Mr Smith in the subway.  

Before this, he was Mr Anderson. He never believed he was their Savior, that he was Neo. Like him, you can be told something 100 times over, you can hear it, know it, understand it but still don’t believe it. Until you believe it, until you own it…. it’ll never work for you. I know you all understand what I am talking about, that “oh that’s what you meant” episode when a light bulb is light in your brain. There is really no rhyme or reason how this happen and the process is different for everyone. It is greatly influenced by our past experiences and our belief system.

The more negative training/reinforcement you have received, the more difficult the turning on the light bulb will be. This is where the first “O” in the OODA loop can create some problems. You performed this action before. You remember that when you try to do this, something bad happened. Your brain wants to live and preserve itself, so it will purposely avoid the situation as much as possible.  
I have a lot of negative training to get rid of. My very first instructors would have me do pushups every time I would accidentally strike someone too hard. Instead they should have taught my partners to block better. This kind of negative reinforcement creates scars in the brain. OK they are not really scars, they are neural pathways but I like the analogy better to that of a scar. Neural pathways are often misquoted as muscle memory. Muscles really do not have memory. Patterns are stored in the brain through neural pathways, like beating down a path through a field of tall grass. They are created by repetition and become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories, habits if you will. This becomes very handy when you learn to drive a car or play piano. It helps you become proficient, reach that unconscious competence. But it is used in the same manner to create bad habits. You need to re-train those pathways, and depending on age, the strength of the pathways or the task to be accomplished, it can take time. This is why good solid practice, using good solid principles is so important. 
Sometimes it will take nothing short of an explosion to break the “bad neural pathways” that have been created. You’ll recognize those moments; they are the light bulbs going off in your head. The “handicap” of being blind for a short time created this explosion for me. It shut off my other senses and let me focus on one of them. I did not have a neural pathway created from “blind training” yet. So I had nothing to shut down.  I just had to create a new pathway. This was a “My name is Neo” moment for me. This unlocked my brain into believing that “yeah buddy this stuff works. It works for a little person against a great big strong dude when you do it right. If I use sound principles, it does not matter what he looks like anymore. Advantage-court-Lise” . Once I stop using the old pathways, the grass will grow tall again. Scars are scars but they can fade. Neural pathways can be replaced with fresh one, deeper and stronger than the old one. And for the time it takes to replace them, if you are aware of them you can do everything in your power to consciously avoid them. Once I have this down, it will be easy to trust the technique with my eyes open and go kick some serious ass. The more the light bulbs are lit, the easier things will become.

 So you see, overcoming a handicap can really become an advantage.

Be smart, stay safe and go kick some ass.