Rory Miller

Rory Miller

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It’s Easy For the Bad Guy

Self-defense is what happens when you are losing. Think that through. If I attack you, clearly I’m not defending myself. Simultaneously, if I challenge you to a fight (or you challenge me) that’s not self-defense. That’s mutual combat.

“He started it!” is a grade school defense, it isn’t a legal defense.

This has been coming up a lot, in the manuscript I’m working on with Lawrence, in various videos people have asked me to watch, in some training I am planning and the video shoot in September. If you are defending yourself, it is because you are losing .

What does that mean? That the bad guy picked the range and his position. That he probably moved in such a way as to hamper your response (amazing how real knives are almost always used after grabbing the head or your arm and unbalancing and how few people practice against that). That before you are even aware things have started, your structure is compromised and you have taken damage.

Whatever your best move is, how well will it work if you are already folded over with your wind knocked out, wedged into a corner and with the bad guy riding your closest arm and slamming strikes into the back of your head and neck?

‘Cause that’s the baseline, my friends.

And you can fight from there… but you have to practice fighting from there. There are ways to use a compromised structure or the momentum of being slammed.

Bad guys have it easy. Almost any technique from any system will work if you are the bad guy. You can pick the range, the target and the orientation. From target shooting to soft arts, almost anything works if you can choose the when and where. Only the bad guy ever gets to choose that.

Sparring or dueling is really a contest between two bad guys. It starts at a range when there is a huge choice in how to close and where to close and what to do. It’s contested, (which makes it a contest) but the essence of being attacked is the utter lack of those kinds of options.

When we teach self-defense, we tend to forget this, teaching techniques from a solid base with clear vision. When we pressure test in the ring we lack respect for how huge the difference is between prevailing in a contest and recovering when a human predator has stacked everything in his favor.

Distance, stance, blocking… that’s stuff the bad guy will have time for, but probably won’t need. If you have all that, if you have time to get into a proper fighting stance or set up a shoot, you may not be the bad guy… but you can almost certainly walk away.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Glass of Water

The Conflict Communication class near Seattle Saturday went well. The material is solid, universal, applicable, simple…all that good stuff.

The reason it works is because there is nothing new to it. No tricks, no new information. It is just putting into words how people interact on a daily basis and why, sometimes, that leads to friction or violence or just gets in the way of a job that needs to be done. Once you see it, it is all around you, has always been all around you. It is predictable and has always been predictable, we just were too close to it to see that.

You all might have noticed that I’m wired a little differently. Raised by coyotes, there are a lot of things about human beings I don’t ‘get.’ Don’t misunderstand me: I know these things and understand them, but only because I studied and learned. I never had a voice in the back of my head telling me what ‘normal’ was or freezing me up with bullshit thoughts about what others would think.

On second thought, ‘never’ is too strong a word. I remember a couple of times…

Anyway, I studied people when I went to college the way a behavioral biologist or field anthropologist studies a population. And in the end, like a really good n on-native speaker, I understand the rules of grammar and syntax better than most natives.

Then I went to jail, and in that compressed-time, high-stakes world I got really good at predicting extreme behavior. And noticed that the patterns were almost the same as less extreme, less violent behavior. Executing a traitor, spanking a child or counseling a co-worker all vary in the consequences, but the pattern of behaviors that have to be observed first, the steps in the rituals, are very, very similar.

That goes for almost all other conflict behaviors: There are only a few types. Each type follows the same pattern.

That makes them predictable.

There were a few very solid critiques from people I respect. Some of the changes are easy and some were already in the works.

One of the critiques is surprisingly hard to fix. Exercises and role-play are generally very important to communication training. I feel the need, but… This class is so based on natural reactions that it seems really hard to induce them artificially. In the course of the class I can reliably induce the “unfinished business feeling” not just in the person I demonstrate with but with every other person who observes. I can trigger a defensive monkey reaction with one simple word that we think we use every day, and everyone in the class feels it.

But role-playing? Every interaction that each student had that day, in class, out of class, before or after, revolved around the elements explained in the class. I get the eerie feeling that after a class on water taught to fish, a class where they learn why they sometimes drift when they aren’t moving and sometimes they go slow in one direction (against the current) and fast in the other… that the fish want me to bring a glass of this thing called water to look at.

It is important, though, and a good critique. I’m probably just monkey whining. Time to get creative. Posted by Rory at Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self Analysis

Some comments by e-mail and on the last blog basically summed up: “If the type of violence you will face is predictable, what about me?”

Fair question. But damn, people, some day I’m going to do a blog on how to read statistics because almost anything I write will be read incorrectly.

Here’s the deal: Unless you are making certain life choices, your chances of being exposed to serious violence are very small.

So what are the stupid life choices? Almost all social violence happens in four kinds of places:

  • Where people get their minds altered. Drugs, alcohol, or even ecstatic drumming, things that break down the social conditioning against violence increase the likelihood of violence. Who’d a thunk it?
  • Where young men gather in groups. An audience plus insecurities about status are a recipe for Monkey Dance violence.
  • Where territories are in dispute. War or the edge between rival gang territory, doesn’t matter. Violence is more common and even the types of violence are similar: raids and drive-bys; spray ‘n’ pray and collateral damage.
  • Where you don’t know the rules. Groups have rules and those rules will be enforced. In certain groups, they will be enforced with a look or a word. In others if you refuse to acknowledge your error , the correction may be violent.

So, the first analysis– do you spend time in any of these situations? The first two, guys are at risk for Monkey Dance and women, in general, at risk for unwanted touching. The third, the violence could be extreme, random, and not even aimed at you. Wrong place, wrong time could put you in front of a bullet.

The fourth is rare, sort of, and not bad, unless you are stupid. Every so often something very, very bad happens when some college kids decide to go slumming at a biker or barrio bar. They don’t know the rules. If they had the humility to realize that, keep their mouths shut and be respectful, it’s not bad. But that seems to be a rare combination of virtues in that demographic. Some of us go into wildly different cultures with some regularity and make friends. What we have in common is the ability to be respectful and shut the hell up.

There is fifth place, too: predatory violence happens in lonely places, without witnesses.

Second analysis: do you spend time with violent people? If your husband has beaten you in the past he will do so in the future. If you decided to marry your prison pen pal child molester, he will molest your children when you have them. If your asshole roommate gets in fights every weekend and you go out drinking with him, you will get into fights.


Third analysis: What kind of target do I look like? Big guys who look tough are Monkey Danced on more than little guys. Win or lose with the big guy, you score points on ‘heart’. Win with the little guy and you just beat a child– no rep in that. Worse if the little guy beats you. People who are uncomfortable in their own skin (reads as weak) and labile (literally translates as ‘lippy’ but a psychology term for showing emotion) are bully targets.

People who, again, are uncomfortable in their own skin, awkward, inattentive and hesitant, are primary targets for predators. Resource predators, the most common, are just in it for the money.

This is the part where you need to understand statistics. Even in a war zone, actual violence is not 24/7. Most people who go to war do not die or get injured and many never even see action. Because you can predict the type does not mean you can predict the event . I am fairly certain that if 130 people died on a jet plane, the cause was probably a plane wreck… but that is no indicator that any given plane will wreck.

Lastly are the outliers, and this is important. There are types of violence that do not follow common patterns. Sometimes that is deliberate. An insecure member of a violent group may do something completely outside the rules of normal social violence to get a reputation for being ‘hard’ too crazy to mess with. It is often a display of extreme violence against someone who would not normally be seen as a legitimate target– like stomping a baby.

If you have betrayed a group with a propensity to violence, that can trigger an extreme response… but this one is predictable, too.

There are random acts of group violence as bonding. Very, very rare but very, very violent. There is no victim profile for this.

Home invasion crimes, schizophrenic episodes… This stuff is rare and that makes it less predictable but raises the stakes. Obviously I concentrate on defending the high-end unpredictable stuff, because the predictable stuff is preventable

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