Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What if?.....

Samurai Saturdays are one my favorite things.  Sleep in, make a nice breakfast, and watch cartoons with the girls.  Strength training, lunch, then off to the Dojo.

Saturday’s at the Dojo are usually a specialty class.  I’ll generally take one aspect say ground work  or striking and spend the entire 3 hours class on it.  Or, sometimes, I like to take a concept and play with it through out several combative aspects.  Playing with ideas.

With working patrol recently Saturday’s like that have been fewer and further between than I like (have grown accustomed to).

As such, I was looking foreword to Saturday’s training even more than usual.  But nothing was really clicking in my mind as to what I wanted to work on.  I had some rough thumbnail ideas but nothing was really popping.  No – yeah that will be awesome – inspiration.

Until I received a facebook message

Hi Kasey, just checking back in about the seminar if there are any more details.
I teach Krav Maga, and there may be some interest among other instructors as well.

And if you don't mind, I have a self defense scenario that we're trying to get input on.

Basic setup is this...bad guy is behind you with a knife to your throat in his right hand. His right leg is between yours to prevent you from pivoting. His left hand is holding onto your left arm (either over or under - under seems much worse). What does the defender do?
Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Cool, now I had some inspiration.  The challenge was how to answer the question succinctly with out being glib.

I tease Marc MacYoung sometimes because he has been asked lots of similar questions many times.  So his answers are sometimes like - first read this link, then sub section 4a of this state statute, followed by appendix c of this book.  Once that is done then we can discuss the next step J

Violence is complex and there really are no simple answers.  If there were all the questions would already be answered.

Easy answers make good bumper stickers but don’t really address the complexity of the situation.

If you can’t explain it to a 5 year old, then you don’t really know the material.

The question / challenge helped coalesce my rough lesson plan into some ideas to be played with. 
  • Address the what if question scenario
  • Detail how training conducted at the violence dynamics seminar benefits instructors – Answers the question
  • Play with ideas
Turned into a solid 3 hour seminar style class.

If you have time the best way I have found to address what if questions is just to play with them.  Hammer them out if you will.  So, for a warm up I broke the class into pairs and gave one a training knife.  I read the question from facebook off my phone and asked them to play with it.

That is a tough scenario.  If the person holding the knife isn’t being a very forgiving “Dojo buddy” it is very hard (all but impossible) to do anything with out getting your throat slit.

One student didn’t do any physical motion at all and simply asked, “What do you want?”
That simple question was a great launching point for discussion -

How are knives actually used?

I asked what would be the purpose of this type of attack.  What would the assailant gain from this?
This type of attack makes sense from a military perspective.  A silent sentry removal tactic. 

None of my current students are likely to be on guard duty soon, but as an academic exercise we discussed fighting to the goal.  How do you thwart the attacker’s objectives?  If he wants to silence you, you make as much noise as possible, you alert those you are protecting, you sound the alarm before you die.

Outside of military applications, if a criminal is so stealthy and so skilled that he snuck up behind you, limited and or removed your mobility, and slipped a blade to your throat but didn’t just outright kill you, there has to be a reason you are not dead yet.

How do you thwart the attacker’s objectives?  What does he want?

To answer that lets look at some stuff from we cover at the violence dynamics seminar that I like to share on the blog:

In the scenario from the facebook question, if you are still alive the attacker must want something from you that you have to be alive to give him.

Asocial violence does not see the victim as a person but rather a resource (a different species to be hunted).  By the time you face a predator attack you must understand that the predator has decided what ever you have (or the attack itself) is more important than you.  Who you are carries no more emotional weight than the wrapper a hamburger came in.

A predator will use tactics he has developed to get what he wants from you in the safest surest manor.  This is in no way a “fair fight”.  The predator will take every advantage using speed, surprise and ferocity to prevent you from responding in any way that could be effective in stopping him. 

Predator Types
  • Resource
A resource predator wants something you have and will use violence to take it from you
A resource predator situation can be resolved by giving up what you have Car , Purse Wallet
(Are they worth dying for?)

  • Process
For the process predator, the act of violence is the reason itself.  The Crime is the goal
Requires time and privacy to “enjoy” the process / act of violence
Will attempt to isolate victim
Home Invasion (comes to you)
Secondary Crime scene (takes you someplace somewhere else)

Do whatever is necessary to end the situation
If not it will likely escalate into rape, torture, murder

The discussion we had on Saturday followed much the same way.  Give him what he wants.  If what he wants is privacy to do horrible things to you do what ever it takes to draw attention to the situation and if possible run toward safety.  I’d rather die fighting than be slowly raped to death at the leisure of the predator.

There is really no good way to get out of the scenario in the what if question.
Reminded me of an old wrestling / jujutsu saying:
What is the best way out of a full nelson?
Don’t get put into a full nelson.

That is kind of a snarky answer to the what if question I was asked but it brought up another teaching point.

Defense is multilayered

Another topic covered in the violence dynamics seminar that I have written about here quite often in conflict strategy.

Better to avoid than run, better to run than to de-escalate, better to de-escalate than fight, better to fight than to die.

So the first layer of defense against - bad guy is behind you with a knife to your throat in his right hand. His right leg is between yours to prevent you from pivoting. His left hand is holding onto your left arm is avoidance.

Bad things happen in predictable places.  If you avoid the places you can avoid a huge percentage of the violence in the world.

  • Bars – Parties – Anywhere people get their minds altered
  • Private places
  • Anywhere that young men gather
  • Where territories are in dispute
  • Anywhere with limited mobility or escape routes

Specifically for knife violence behaviors to avoid:
  • Don’t join violent criminal organizations
  • If you do, don’t betray your violent criminal organization
  • Don’t fornicate other people’s significant others

If you avoid dangerous places and avoid dangerous activities (mentioned above) you can avoid a huge percentage of the knife violence in the world.

Escape and Evade the 2nd line of defense
Ambushes work best when:
  • When the victim can be distracted
  • When mobility is limited
  • When the threat can safely get close enough.
  • When escape routes are limited

I can’t give you a list of things to look for.  If you look for every thing you won’t see anything.

Instead of looking at every place where you could be attacked, look at places you could use to set up an attack if you were a predator.

-On your daily route where would you wait to mug yourself? 
•If you were a process predator (enjoy the act) where would you set up to make a quick snatch? 
•How would you break into your own home?   
•Where would you come into your office on a shooting spree?

If something odd is happening at one of those places – RUN!
  • NOT just away from danger

What does that mean?
  • Public places
  • Large crowds
  • Bright Lights

How could I get out of this place?
  • Where are the exits
  • Have an escape plan / exit strategy

De-escalation the 3rd line of defense.
De-escalation does not work against asocial violence.  If you can’t talk down a hungry wolf don’t expect to talk down a human predator either.

I bring it up here because:
  • If you don’t ever practice it you are not giving your students permission to do it.  Whether purposefully or not you are conditioning your students to ignore anything but fighting as a solution.

    • When we played with the what if every physical technique resulted in death or serious injury.

  • Part of de-escalation is determining what type of violence you are facing.
    • The only one who didn’t get cut was the student that recognized it as a predatory attack and asked the attacker what he wanted.

 Which brings us to the 3rd layer of defense
- Fight

Do I need to engage?
If you have time to ask this question, then odds are the answer is no.

If you don’t have time to ask the question you better be engaging.

Engaging - Counter Assault
Operant Conditioned Responses

At the violence dynamics seminar we spend time helping people find or refine counter ambush techniques.
Ideally this technique will fit Rory Miller’s Golden Standard.

To meet that standard a move must:
Improve your position
Worsen the their position
Protect you from damage
Allow you to damage them.

For that “golden move” to be valid It must also

Have a tactical use.

Work moving or standing still. If you can’t hit hard when both you and the threat are moving, you can’t hit hard. If you can’t put a bullet on target on a moving target while you, yourself are moving, for all tactical purposes you can’t shoot.

Work whether you can see or not

Work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn't work.

Works with little or no modification.

That last point is important.  If your counter ambush concept needs significant tweaks to deal with different attacks then for all intents and purposes you have to know a different technique for every possible attack

Outside of the Matrix no one is fast enough to:
  • Observe  - perceive a motion (negative stimulus)
  • Orient – mentally register that motion you perceived is a specific attack
  • Decide – chose a technique to deal with that specific attack
  • Act – Do that technique

Before they get hit by the attack

You want to whittle your response tree down to as little as possible.  Perceive a negative stimulus and act immediately with golden move that works against most any possible attack.

Train for what happens most and you can handle most of what happens

An example of this from traditional Budo is Batto Jutsu.  Toyama Ryu Batto Jutsu is a Japanese sword art established in 1925, so although technically not a traditional (Koryu) style it’s roots go back to Omori Ryu Tachi Iai or the tachi waza of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu. It embodies the art of drawing and using the single sword from a standing posture.  Toyama Ryu is based on the practical application of the sword as a weapon. It consists of basic cutting techniques, and basic kata.

The reason I relate batto jutsu to counter ambush is that is the focus of the training.
The ways you can cut with a sword (any edged weapon) are innumerable.  Batto Ryu doesn’t teach innumerable blocks to all these attacks.

The Toyama Ryu kata were adapted from the original training kata from the Toyama Military Academy.  Kata teach the student how to move, draw, defend, and attack efficiently.  They present scenarios where the enemy attacks from different directions and instructs the student how to deal with the situation. 

No matter the specific attack is, you move, draw and cut to deal with an:

  1. Ippon Me (一本目) Mea No Teki (前の敵)
    Enemy to the front
  2. Nihon Me (二本目) Migi No Teki (右の敵)
    Enemy to the right
  3. Sambon Me (三本目) Hidari No Teki (左の敵)
    Enemy to the left
  4. Yonhon Me (四本目) Ushiro No Teki (後の敵)
    Enemy to the rear

Narrowing your response tree down even further ideally you will have one thing that works against attacks  from the front and another thing that works against attacks from the rear.

When you find something that fits that criteria and works for you, then you need to condition it to a response.

When you receive negative stimulus you respond with that golden move.

Bringing this back to the what if question.
What if…
a bad guy is behind you with a knife to your throat in his right hand.
His right leg is between yours to prevent you from pivoting.
His left hand is holding onto your left arm.

Starting from this position of disadvantage is what makes physical defense so difficult.
But the bad guy had to get there somehow.  He had to put you in that position of disadvantage. 

He had to:
Get behind you
Trap you left arm
Get his legs between yours
Get a knife to your throat

It is difficult to defend yourself once all of those things are set.  It is also very difficult to do all of those things at the same time.  Even if the bad guy practiced this attack one of those factors has to happen first.

Immediately responding to which ever negative stimulus you perceived first [left arm grab, leg split, reach over your shoulder to your neck] with a counter ambush technique that protects you from most any possible attack from the rear will defeat any one of those three required factors and make it impossible for the bad guy to achieve the other two.

Now you have a fighting chance.

Ok, so I hope I answered the question the best I can with out physically putting my hands on someone.  Also I hope I piqued interest in the violence dynamics seminar.  Let’s wrap this blog up

The rest of the class we played with counter ambush and closing range.  The key principle we hit was falling into structure.

You don’t go into a stance to start a fight but going into a stance can end a fight.
You can’t help falling but you and land with style

That is the thing, if you understand the principle the technique will take care of itself.

In Aikido that is called takemusu aiki
Takemusu (武産?) is the concept of how the ultimate martial art “should be”, an art in which techniques could be spontaneously executed.

You can’t learn, and practice enough to be good at a different technique for every possible attack, but you can master a handful of principles that make all techniques work.

When you understand the principles and practice playing with them you will spontaneously create techniques as the situation dictates.

What if questions will start to answer themselves.

Train hard, Train Smart, Be Safe


  1. awesome blog!!!
    And may I add that it WAS a great class
    You rock!

  2. Thank you very much,Kasey. I've been trying to prepare an answer to a very similar question for my next run of classes and you have just very neatly brought together all the material I have been looking at and given me a plan to work through.

  3. As I read this I can't stop smiling... It was quite well written and easy to read and more importantly got the point across... Putting training into context