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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Risk of death from another perspective

Couple things happened recently that inspired this week’s blog.

The first was our annual SWAT banquet.  An opportunity to socialize with each other and a chance for our significant others to meet the guys their husband / boyfriend kicks doors with.  A way to put faces to the names and stories they have heard.  A way to get to know the guys they are entrusting with the life of their loved one.

Every year at the banquet the SWAT Commander thanks everyone for coming especially all the significant others.  He makes a point that we couldn't do what we need to do with out them or with out their support.  He also makes a point that we understand it is hard to be woken up by a page in the middle of the night and to watch their loved one hurry off, potentially to risk their life, and thanks them for putting up with us.

We are sorry to put them through that but do we really understand it?

The second was a project my oldest daughter did at school.  My wife told me about a drawing that she made.  She was told to draw herself and draw lines from her head to things that worry her.

I was one of those things.  No father wants to here that.  So I asked my wife why was I causing my daughter anxiety.

My wife had asked her that same question.  She said she was afraid I was going to die on an operation.

I've really only looked at death from my own perspective before

I've written my thoughts about it in part here:

You go on those calls because someone has to go on those calls.

Chance favors the prepared mind.  Do every thing you can to be the best there is at what you do ahead of time.  Assume you will have to use the highest levels of force on every encounter and be pleasantly surprised when you don’t.

Despite the officer friendly, community policing, social worker in body armor many would like law enforcement to be, it is still and will always be a warrior’s profession.

As such you risk death every shift. 
Are you ready?  Do you have your shit together?  Will your family be taken care of financially if you die?  Are you cool with your loved ones?  Are you good with your God if you have one?

If you answered no to any of the above, get your shit together.  Get your life insurance ironed out.  Hug the loved ones you live with before you leave for work, it might be the last time you do.  Do you really want to argue with your spouse about the pile of dishes in the sink?  Do you want your last words to your kid to be clean your fucking room? 

Do what you need to do to be good with the people you love. 
If you have religious beliefs do what you need to do to be good with your God.
Not only in the case of your death, but in taking the life of someone else as well.

You have a warrior’s profession and as such death is reality of your job.  Even the best of us can fall.  None of us are invincible (even the cocky ones that have their own blogs).  However, ironically, being ready to die (for lack of a more eloquent term) increases your chances of living. 

Having your shit together lessens the likelihood of freezing in conflict and greatly diminishes the length of a freeze.  Having your shit together, being prepared for death increases your quality of life.  (Don’t sweat the small stuff)

My family will be taken care of financially if I die
I have made peace with / I am good with my God

But can I be cool with my loved ones if my daughter is scared?

Has my perspective made me caviler about death?
Have things I've said about death around my daughter frightened her?

I guess maybe I should have seen this coming.  

About a year ago we planned to take the girls to the American Girl Doll store in the Mall of America to celebrate their birthdays.  

Sure enough, late the night before the page comes out.  I got up and threw my gear together.  Kissed my wife, looked in on the girls (Hug the loved ones you live with before you leave for work, it might be the last time you do) and headed for the door.  I looked up and saw my oldest at the top of the stairs.  I told her I had to go to work and that she should go back to sleep.

She said, “Be sure not to die, I want to go to the mall of America tomorrow”
I replied with something like you got it kiddo now go back to sleep.

I just thought it was cute and was already planning tactical solutions to the call out.  I never considered that she was actually afraid I was going to die, nor that it was a constant fear of hers until I heard about that picture. 

I wasn't afraid I was going to die.  So of course no one else would be right?

Wrong dumb-ass!, you live in a house with four women.  They might have a different perspective on the matter

So, time to follow my own advice.  Get your shit together.  Make sure you are cool with the ones you love.

And by sharing my thoughts on the matter maybe help:
  • People with high risk professions help alleviate the fears of their loved ones
  • People who love people with high risk jobs

Ok smart guy - How do I ease the concerns of a 9 year old girl? 

I am a firm believer that past performance inductive of future success.  How did I explain this to my wife?

When I applied for the SWAT team I talked it over with my wife.  She had concerns for my safety obviously.

I explained to her that even though it seems to be a higher risk (than regular patrol) in many ways it is safer because of all the additional training you receive and the quality and numbers of the guys you work with.

I told her I would rather go on a planned warrant with 12 highly armed, armored, and skilled Operators than a traffic stop on an isolated road all by myself.

I made analogies to stories I had heard about ‘Nam era special forces vets.  In a military filled with drafted personal that did not want to be there you are better off in Special Forces.  The assignments are more dangerous, but at least everyone in your unit wants to be there.  They had to work hard to earn that.  Much more dangerous to go on routine assignments (there really are no such things as a “routine” assignments when any assignment could include a gun fight) with guys who do the least amount possible just to get by and don’t give a fuck anymore. 

Any cops reading this work with guys that don’t want to be there and don’t give a fuck anymore?
Rhetorical question jack ass every cop has to work with someone like that.

I’m not sure if that explanation made her less afraid of SWAT or more afraid of patrol.

Either way I made the point that the extra training I would receive would make me safer doing both.
That seemed to work.  That is a start

We understand it is hard to be woken up by a page in the middle of the night and to watch a loved one hurry off, potentially to risk their life…

We are sorry to put them through that but do we really understand it?

The closest I have come to seeing this through a loved ones perspective are they few times I have been unable to go to a call out.  Either because I was out of town or had other obligations I could not escape, there have been a couple times where I had to listen to the radio from the side lines.

And that really, really sucked.

When there is nothing you can do to positively influence the outcome that really sucks.  All you can do is wait to hear the all clear, and hope everything went well.

How I dealt with this:
1) I trained these guys, they know their shit, and they will be fine
2) Get over yourself.  Yes you are good, but you are not so good that they can not do this with out you.  There are other very skilled Operators on the team.  You count on them to watch your back.  You can count on them to watch everyone else’s back

That made it suck slightly less. 

How can this help my daughter?
How can this help anyone who loves someone with a high risk job?

They have not trained the team.  So if the quality of training gave me some comfort it would stand to reason that it could do the same for her.

I can make sure she knows how good we are.  How hard we train.  And even though we do dangerous things we do them in the safest way possible.

(Maybe a video of training highlights at something like the banquet so spouses can see it?)

I can also make sure she knows a couple of my close buddies that work hard to be sure I come home safe

(Another reason why social events with your families are important)

Ok, so I have some ideas about how I can talk to my daughter about this.

But the title of this blog is "Risk of death from another perspective"right?  So I did some research and found this:

Question: How Do I Explain My Deployment to My Kids?

Thousands of military parents face the challenge of explaining an upcoming deployment to their children.

Answer: Your strategy will revolve around your children's ages, personality, coping mechanisms and familiarity with deployments. Kids of active duty service members may already possess a general knowledge of deployments, whereas it may be a foreign concept to children of Reservists and Guardsmen
Young Children: When dealing with preschoolers, many military parents opt for a simple approach such as, "I have to go away for awhile and do my job." Common inquiries from small children include the basics: when, where, and how long. A sense of security is important to these little ones. Don't be surprised if your son or daughter exhibits uncharacteristic clingy behavior.

Older Children: These kids may have a basic understanding of what deployment means, but don't fully comprehend how it'll impact their world. There's a lot of unpredictability in children aged 6 to 12. Some will barrage you with inquiries during your first discussion. Others may have one or two questions, process the information and approach you days later.

Some military parents approach the topic by utilizing another service member’s deployment as a frame of reference. "Remember last year when Caitlyn's dad had to go away for his work?"

Regardless of their reactions, expect a lot of questions from these inquisitive minds.

Teens: Compared to the other age categories, teenagers have a much better understanding of deployments. Besides questions about your well-being, they often want to know how their role within the family will change during your absence. Your teenager may react to the news by expressing a wide variety of emotions.

Anger and feelings of abandonment are common, especially if you'll miss a major milestone in their life such as a high school graduation. Others might respond by assuming an adult-like role, reassuring you not to worry about the home front because they'll "take care of everything."

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep
Seeking reassurance, children often put their parent on the spot by asking tough, direct questions. A natural parental reaction is to promise them the moon, stars and everything in between. However, doing so can backfire and have serious repercussions.

For example:

Don't promise your child you'll maintain daily communication—even if you believe you can. Communication blackouts, missions and a host of other variables may make this impossible. A better alternative is to explain that staying in touch is important to you, followed by informing them you'll do your best to e-mail, call or write letters as often as possible.

At the forefront of most young minds are the questions, "Could you get hurt?" and "Could you die?" Some children will verbalize the question, others will not.
Again, don't make promises you can't keep.
To calm their anxiety and fear, offer reassuring statements. "My top priority is coming home safely to you and the rest of the family. I have a lot of gear to protect me and a lot of training." To instill your point, you may want to show your child a Kevlar helmet and vest.

When presented with tough questions, some military parents insert the family's religious preferences into the conversation. "God (or whatever higher power you believe in) will help protect not only me, but you too."
Contrary to young children, teens have a better understanding of this subject matter. Often preferring logic and facts over theoretical concepts, they may ask, "What are the chances that you'll be hurt or killed?" Simple responses such as, "The odds are in my favor that I'll return home safe," may satisfy your teen's logic-driven mind. Before discussing the deployment with your teen, you may want to gather facts and statistics to support your statements.

The methods used in explaining deployments are unique to each child and family. You possess a powerful asset: first-hand knowledge of your kids. Don't underestimate this tool. Often, it's this knowledge that will guide you through the difficult discussions.

Support Material
If your child responds well to visual cues, consider acquiring videos, booklets and coloring/activity books before you approach your children. To get you started, here are a few options:

Numerous free videos, covering various aspects of deployment and military service are available at the Sesame Street Web site.
Military Child.org provides a nine-page document designed to help parents explain deployment to their children.
Helping Children Cope During Deployment covers all stages of deployment, including telling your children to helping them through the separation.
Promoting Resilience in Your Family is a free video designed for children aged 12 to 18.
Most installations offer service members a wide variety of educational material designed to help children cope with deployments. For example, soldiers can find useful information at their Army Community Service (ACS) center.

While I was writing this, thinking about seeing things from a different perspective I had a thought.

I work out with her
I play ninjas with her (see also sneaky way to teach close quarter combatives)
I shoot guns with her.

What if a couple years down the road she flips the script on me.  What if she wants to become a cop?  What if she wants to join the military?

That thought process led me to look up some resources online that I thought might be useful for this blog

Tips To Help You In Your Decision-Making Process

Tip 1 — Take A Step Back
It’s a good idea to take some time to process your thoughts and feelings about your daughter or son
joining the Army. This will allow you to keep an open mind and focus on the best decision for them.

Tip 2 — Get The Facts
Professional Development
• The Army offers career opportunities in a wide range of areas — with over 150 jobs in law
enforcement, engineering, medicine, law, arts & media, technology and more.
• Soldiers participate in a variety of leadership training courses and get expert on-the-job training,
putting them on the fast track to success both in Army careers and related civilian careers.
• Deployment is an opportunity to broaden one’s horizons by going overseas. A common
misperception is that deployment always means combat, when, in fact, units are often deployed to
noncombat regions. It is also important to note not all Soldiers get deployed.
Education Benefits
• The Army provides a well-rounded education beyond the traditional college diploma —including
leadership training and other experiences that help Soldiers find career opportunities others
don’t get.
• There are various scholarships, grants and education benefits the Army offers Soldiers to help
them pay for a college education or pay off existing student loans.
• Soldiers participating in the Education Career Stabilization program are able to attend college
and earn their degree without the risk of deployment.
• Soldiers enjoy a dynamic lifestyle that affords them the time to pursue hobbies and spend time
with their families, while continually strengthening themselves through ongoing training.
• Soldiers and their families get comprehensive health care coverage that comes at little or no cost.
• Soldiers on active duty receive 30 days of vacation along with weekends, national holidays and
unlimited sick days.
• The Army provides low-cost life insurance regardless of a Soldier’s age.
• The Army offers Soldiers, families and retirees a strong network of support and recreational
services that enhance lives, build resiliency and promote a sense of balance.

It may help you to hear from parents who have been through this process.
Go to www.goarmy.com/parents/real-life-stories to see some parents’ stories.

Tip 4 — have an open dialogue
Use these thought starters to help you have a productive
discussion with your son or daughter.
1. What do you hope to get out of the Army?
2. What is the main reason you are thinking of joining?
3. What are your long-term goals and how will the Army help you achieve them?
4. Have you thought about what you want to do in the Army?
5. What talents do you hope to strengthen in the Army?
6. Have you thought about going to college before or after the Army?
7. What would you like to be in the Army Reserve or on active duty?

Tip 5 — Talk to a recruiter
Talking to a recruiter is a great way to get questions you have about the Army answered.
They are here to help you make the best decision for your family. Recruiters can also help you
determine the right timetable for enlistment and tailor an Army experience that meets your
child’s goals and needs.
You can talk to a recruiter online at www.goarmy.com/parents
or call 1-800-USA-ARMY, ext. 181.

If you have a warrior’s profession, you risk death every shift. 

It is your responsibility to make yourself ready for death
  • Do you have your shit together? 
  • Will your family be taken care of financially if you die? 
  • Are you good with your God if you have one?
  • Are you cool with your loved ones? 

Are you cool with your loved ones?  - I realize now, that part of that is, it is your responsibility to ease the anxiety they may have with your warrior’s profession.

Make sure they know:
  • The quality of training you receive
    • This only works if you do every thing you can to be the best there is at what you do.
    • So if you don't, then pick it up a notch.  If not for you, then for them!
  • Even though you do dangerous things you do them in the safest way possible.
  • A couple of your close buddies that work hard to be sure you come home safe

Don't make promises you can't keep.

Offer reassuring statements.
  • "My top priority is coming home safely to you and the rest of the family.”

Show them you protective gear (Kevlar helmet and vest.)

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be safe – get back home to those loved ones

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

She blinded me with science

Tactile sense and / or just play.

A new G.I. Joe movie just came out.  Faithful readers of the Budo blog now I love the Joes so you know a Joe themed blog had to be in the works.

There are a few things I have been knocking around in my head and discussing with other trainers I wanted to blog about for awhile.  The G.I. Joe movie is a good excuse / spring board to discuss them this week.

One of my favorite characters from the G.I. Joe comic book back in the day was the Blind Master

In the book - Sensei Moore (the Blind Master) is an honorary member of the Arashi Kage Ninja clan who was taken in and trained by the Hard Master. He later opened a Dojo in Denver, Colorado.

{Interesting side note my first Aikido Sensei was Sensei Moore who received his training at the Nippon Kan Dojo in Denver Colorado}

When The Hard Master was assassinated by Zartan, Sensei Moore continued his master's practices and trained Jinx.

That is the Blind Master and Jinx from the film

Because Jinx was trained by the Blind Master, she actually fought better blind and would wear a blindfold into combat.

Sounds silly right, but that brings me to the first Idea I've been kicking around…

Tactile sensory perception.

Information received tactilely is perceived faster / reacted on quicker, than information received visually

The somatosensory system is a diverse sensory system comprising the receptors and processing centres to produce the sensory modalities such as touch, temperature, proprioception (body position), and nociception (pain).

The sensory receptors cover the skin andepithelia, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

While touch[1] is considered one of the five traditional senses, the impression of touch is formed from several modalities. In medicine, the colloquial term "touch" is usually replaced with "somatic senses" to better reflect the variety of mechanisms involved.

Somatic senses are sometimes referred to as somesthetic senses, with the understanding that somesthesis includes touch, proprioception and (depending on usage) also haptic perception.[2]

The system reacts to diverse stimuli using different receptors: thermoreceptors, nociceptors, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. Transmission of information from the receptors passes via sensory nerves through tracts in the spinal cord and into the brain. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex.

File:Sensory Homunculus.png

The cortical homunculus was devised byWilder Penfield.
At its simplest, the system works when activity in a sensory neuron is triggered by a specific stimulus such as heat; this signal eventually passes to an area in the brain uniquely attributed to that area on the body—this allows the processed stimulus to be felt at the correct location. The point-to-point mapping of the body surfaces in the brain is called a homunculus and is essential in the creation of a body image.

Reaction Time
by Kyle Shannon, a neuroscience undergraduate student at UC-San Diego.
The speed of your reactions play a large part in your everyday life. Fast reaction times can produce big rewards, for example, like saving a blistering soccer ball from entering the goal. Slow reaction times may come with consequences.

BYB Exp3 Pic1.png

Reaction time is a measure of the quickness an organism responds to some sort of stimulus. You also have “reflexes” too. Reflexes and reactions, while seeming similar, are quite different. Reflexes are involuntary, used to protect the body, and are faster than a reaction. Reflexes are usually a negative feedback loop and act to help return the body to its normal functioning stability, or homeostasis. The classic example of a reflex is one you have seen at your doctor’s office: the patellar reflex.

BYB Exp3 Pic2.jpg
This reflex is called a stretch reflex and is initiated by tapping the tendon below the patella, or kneecap. It was first independently described in 1875 by two German neurologists, Wilhelm Heinrich Erb and Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal. In their original papers Erb referred to the reflex as the “Patellarsehnenreflex” while Westphal denoted it as the “Unterschenkelphanomen”. Thankfully, we now refer to it as the patellar reflex.
This reflex is also known as a “reflex arc”. It is a negative feedback circuit that is comprised of three main components:
·         A sensory component or afferent neuron. These neurons take in information and translate it to an electrical signal that gets sent to the central nervous system, much like the spikes you hear when doing the cockroach leg experiments.
·         Integrating center or interneuron. These neurons act as sensory processing centers that determine the magnitude of the response to the incoming stimulus. They are located in the central nervous system (your spinal cord).
·         The efferent portion or motor neuron takes the information from the interneuron and sends it to the effectors which activate a response. The effectors are usually muscle fibers as in the patellar reflex or a gland such as the salivary gland.
File:BYB Exp3 Pic3.png
The knee reflex arc is a spinal reflex, and the circuit is drawn above. This picture shows how the sensory (afferent) neuron sends information through the dorsal root ganglion into the spinal cord; where the signal splits into two different paths. The first is the motor neuron (efferent) leading back to the quadriceps. When your quad muscle’s motor neuron receives the information it fires and causes your lower leg to spring forward up in the air. The second signal from the sensory neuron travels to an interneuron which sends a signal to the motor neuron (efferent) leading to the hamstring. This signal tells your hamstring to relax so there is no negative force acting on the quadriceps muscle when it contracts. Both signals work together and all of this happens in the spinal cord without going to the brain. It never needs the brain.
You may be asking how a knee reflex arc and a soccer player dealing with an oncoming ball are different. Are both not reflexes? While it may seem that a soccer player negotiating an oncoming ball is a simple fast reflex, it is actually a symphony of hundreds of thousands of neurons working together to produce a conscious decision. Does the player catch, dodge, or bat away the ball? This choice is what makes a reaction.

BYB Exp3 Pic4.jpg

When a soccer player realizes the ball is blistering towards him, there is visual information that has to be processed and decisions regarding a correct course of action. The brain then needs to send many signals to various muscles. Feet begin to move, hands might travel in front of the face, and eyes may close shut, along with many more processes. This is the work of many neurons as well as numerous systems and circuits in the brain, and what’s more, and you can train and enhance your skill through practice. This is how you get better at sports over time.
Like all science, the history of the reaction time discovery is peculiar. Dutch physiologist F.C. Donders in 1865 began to think about human reaction time and if it was measurable. Prior to his studies scientists thought that human mental processes were too fast to be measured. This assumption was proved incorrect with the help of Charles Wheatstone, an English scientist and inventor. In 1840 Wheatstone invented a device, much like his early telegraph system invention, that recorded the velocity of artillery shells. Donders used that device to measure the time it took from when a shock occurred on a patient’s foot until when that patient pressed a button. The button had to be pressed by the left or right hand matching the left or right foot that was shocked. His study tested 2 conditions: in the first, the patient knew in advance which foot was to be shocked; in the other condition, the patient did not know. Donders discovered a 1/15 second delay between patients who knew which foot was to be shocked versus patients that did not know. Notably, this was the first account of the human mind being measured!

BYB Exp3 Pic12.png
These efforts continue today, with the improvement of “non-invasive” imaging technologies like fMRI, PET, EEG, etc... You may have had one of these scans in the hospital.

BYB Exp3 Pic11.png

How quickly neurons move information is called the “speed of neural transmission”; we studied it in experiment 11 when we measured the conduction speed of axons in earthworms. This is only one of the speed bottlenecks though. You also have to deal with the synapse (which we studied in experiment 8). Furthermore, the quickness of reaction times can differ depending upon what type of stimulus you are reacting to and what kind of task you are doing.
In this experiment you and a friend will be testing each other’s reaction times using a simple 12 inch ruler. You will be testing not only visual stimulus, but also auditory and tactile stimuli.
·         Eye Shades
·         12 inches wooden ruler, two of these
·         Seat and desk
This experiment will be broken into two phases. The first test will use one ruler, while the second test will use two.
Experiment 1: In this phase you and your partner will test visual, auditory, and tactile reaction times using one ruler.

BYB Exp3 Pic5.jpeg
1.      Have your friend sit at a table with their dominant hand over the edge.
2.      First we will test visual response. Hold the ruler at the 30 cm mark so that the 0 cm end is just at your friend’s index finger.
3.      Tell your friend that when you release the ruler they are to grab it as fast as possible. Do not make any sounds or gestures that you are releasing the ruler. They have to react to the visual stimulus of seeing the ruler being released. Record the centimeter mark.
4.      Repeat the experiment three more times. Then switch places with your partner and redo it.
5.      Now you will record auditory reactions. Have your partner sit at the table as before, also be sure your partner puts on the eye shades.
6.      Again testing the dominant hand, tell your partner that you will say the word “Release” as you release the ruler. Once they grab it record the centimeter mark and repeat 3 times. Switch places with your partner again.
7.      For the last test, have your partner sit at the table wearing the eye shades again. This time you will test the tactile response. Tell your partner that you will touch the shoulder of their non dominant arm as you release the ruler.
8.      Give you partner no auditory cue that you are releasing, just a simple touch. Record the measurement and like before, repeat three times, then switch places and redo.
Here is the table for the first experiment:

BYB Exp3 Pic6.png
Experiment 2: In this phase you and your partner will test visual and auditory reaction times using two rulers.
1.      For the Visual portion of this experiment have your partner sit as the table, like before, but have both of their hands over the edge.
2.      You will hold both rulers this time instead of just one.
3.      Tell your partner that you will release just one ruler and they must pick the correct one and grab it as fast as possible…Tell them they must not squeeze both hands, only one.
4.      When you are ready to begin, randomly decide one ruler to drop. It does not matter which one, you will perform this test 3 more times, but never tell your partner which ruler you will drop.
5.      Again as before switch roles and redo.
6.      Finally, we will test the auditory reaction again. This time using both rulers.
7.      Get in the same position as before with both rulers. Make sure your partner has the eye shades on.
8.      You will then proceed to say “left” or “right”. As you say it you will drop the corresponding left or right ruler. Your partner must decide which ruler to grasp based on the auditory cue you give: “left” or “right”. As before, your partner must only squeeze one hand.
9.      Record the measurement and repeat 3 more times, remember to randomly decide which ruler to drop. Switch roles and repeat.
Here is the table for the second experiment:
BYB Exp3 Pic7.png
In your chart above you are going to take all the centimeter measurements you have collected and convert the measurement in centimeters to seconds. This will tell you how long it takes, in seconds, an object (the ruler) to fall a certain distance. The formula below is comprised of three variables.
·         Y = the distance you measured in centimeters
·         g0 = the acceleration due to gravity constant (980 cm/sec2 )
·         t = time in seconds

BYB Exp3 Pic8.png
Here is an example of the equation being used:
File:BYB Exp3 Pic9.png
It may seem tedious to convert by hand each number you recorded so instead you will be provided with a quick chart to convert your centimeter measurement to seconds. However, there are several values missing in the table. You will need to fill them out to complete the table. Use the equation above to fill out the remainder of the chart. If you are savvy you can also design a computer program to do this.

BYB Exp3 Pic10.png

After using the chart and converting your centimeter measurements into seconds you will have your ruler reaction time in seconds. Looking at your data you might be thinking how you compare to the human average reaction time. Here it is! The average reaction time for humans is 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus, 0.17 for an audio stimulus, and 0.15 seconds for a touch stimulus.
Questions to Consider
1.      Why do you think touch and audio stimuli have a faster reaction time on average?
2.      Do your results match the averages mentioned above?
3.      Would you expect a difference in the average reaction times between a male and female? What about a more athletic person compared to a more sedentary person?
4.      Do you think it’s OK to average two people like we did? What might be the problem?
5.      Why did we not test the “tactile” reaction time in the choice task? How could you redesign the experimental setup to test tactile reaction times in the choice task?
6.      As you know, you have a dominant vs. a non-dominant hand. With only four trials, it is too hard to see a difference. Perhaps you should repeat the experiment 10-20 times to see if there is any difference between dominant and non-dominant hands.
7.      The average conduction velocity speed is approximately 20-80 m/s. It takes approximately 1 ms for a neurotransmitter to cross the synapses. Calculate the lower limit for your patella reflex vs. the patellar reflex of a giraffe.

Comic books and neuro-science, Kasey you must be a killer with the ladies

How is this information useful to Operators?
OK, any time I talk about tactics I need to be careful because a public blog is open source intel to the enemy (did that sound cool, it sounded cool in my head).
So with out giving away the farm for free let me say that operationally you must read off your teammates quickly and pick up any area of responsibility your partner vacates.  Also the only cover you can count on in a structure is the armor you are wearing.  You must move to protect the weaknesses in your partner’s armor with the strength of yours and vice versa.

Not too long ago we put on a new operator orientation class for the team.  Working on these basics I notices a long (dangerous) gap between the movement of one operator and the reaction of his partner among new operators.

I would grab one of the instructors and we would demonstrate how we would like the motion or technique done.  Seamless (c’mon guys it’s me what did you expect, less than perfection?).  The new guys would try it again.  The technique or tactic would be correct, but there would still be that dangerous lag or gap.

As I processed this further I noticed that the experienced operators, in this case the instructors had developed a “tactile sense”

We weren't blind like the Blind Master, or wearing a blindfold like Jinx, but we rarely looked at each other.  Our eyes were occupied looking for threats in our areas of responsibility.  We were much closer together in the stack “nuts to butts” if you will.  We could feel each other move.  Whatever our partner did we would move at the same time to cover with weapons and protect with armor.  No gap, no lag.

The newer guys would watch their partner move then try to figure out where to go, the speed of information coming through the eyes, that information going through the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) process was slow and caused that gap.

Going off that hypothesis I forced them to touch each other (wow that sounded way less gay in my head).  Getting the information faster and cutting the orient, and decide portions out of the OODA process.  The instant you feel your partner moving you fill the gap he left (ok, make your own easy sexual preference joke here).  Stimulus coming faster and conditioned response resulted in the removal of the gap / lag and made the new guys flow much smoother.  It’s been said millions of times but slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

I feel by drilling that tactile sense early on in their operational career we helped the new guys become much better faster.  Giving them skills that may take years to develop by themselves in the field.

How is this useful for martial artists?

The following quote I stole from Rory Miller, where he got it from I don’t recall, regardless the information is worthwhile…

In order for a technique to be valid it must have four elements:

  1. It must have a tactical use.

  1. It must 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.

  1. It must work whether you can see or not

  1. It must 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.

So if you are not The Blind Master, or if you haven’t been trained by him how do you address #3  It must work whether you can see or not?

How do you develop  / use this tactile sense to your benefit?

You are going to have to get close.  Becoming comfortable, uncomfortable close is a valuable attribute.

I touched on this a bit in an older blog

Here are the relevant points:

Because violence happens closer than most dojo training we should all work closer than most dojo training.  Close in fighting or “grappling range” fighting can be used when you can’t see. 

Watch the video on this link

Could you tell the Judoka were blind?
Here are some more links to blind judo:

I can here you saying that is great for sport, but isn’t this site about practical application?

Yes, yes it is.  Here is an example of practical application (and poetic justice, which apparently is also blind)

Here is the link –

But for the lazy I have included the article here:
Mugger attacks blind man... who turns out to be a judo world champion
Last updated at 16:53 11 September 2007
The blind beggar was actually a one-time judo world champion
When a German mugger spotted a blind beggar at a train station in Germany, he must have thought it would be the easiest mugging of his career.
The teenage mugger spotted the 33-year-old beggar sitting outside a train station in the south-western town of Giessen and thought he would be easy prey, police said.
Intending to steal his cigarettes, the 17-year-old  threatened the blind man and then punched him in the face.
Unfortunately for the mugger, what he didn't know was that his would-be victim was Michael Esser, a former world champion in judo for blind people.
Before he knew what was happening he had been flipped over and put in a stranglehold.
The blind martial artist then pinned him down until police arrived.

Herr Esser need to choke a bitch?

Ok, so that is great for grappling what about striking?  Well if you train at “sparring” range not a damn thing.  But if you have strikes you can do up close at grappling / in fighting range the same principles that make blind Judo work make blind striking work.

Try this drill:
Cover your eyes with something (make sure you can’t see)
Have a partner strike you (correct form – slow motion)
Recover (counter ambush)– you should be close enough to touch your partner [I know that might sound ridiculous but I’ve seen enough Karate classes “spar” so far away from each other that actual contact much less delivering force into your opponent is impossible]
What strikes are available to you, what targets are open, where are they?  Your tactile senses are faster than your eyes you will be able to feel (almost “sees”) how they are standing and where all their parts are.  Again comic nerd it’s kind of like Dare Devil only minus Ben Aflec, so way cooler
Counter strike (correct form – slow motion) Not only is pulling punches a great way to develop bad habits its impossible to do if you can’t see.  So hit as hard as you can - slowly

Once you get the hang of it there many variations you can play with just remember keep it simple, keep it safe.

Striking drill - I like to use a B.O.B. (body opponent bag) for anatomical targets but you can do this drill on any bag.
Hands on BOB’s shoulders or against the bag
Close Eyes
Hit BOB as hard as you can in places that hurt

Side effects – besides learning how to strike effectively from close range, and when you can’t see you will learn how to move while dizzy (bell rung) and lots of sneaky little strike that don’t look like strikes which set up your throws and locks (dirty Judo)

"...but my teacher Morihei Ueshiba sensei always had stated that in real fighting occasions 70% of aikido is atemi, and 30% is throwing" Shioda G.

"Atemi accounts for 99% of aikido." was a remark once uttered by the Founder" Saito M.

Counter Ambush drill – If you have a wing chung dummy or something similar this is fun
Hands on the wing chung dummy’s arms or at shoulder level
Close Eyes
Work your counter ambush as hard as you can tolerate

“The board should fear your hand not the other way around”

That picture brings me to the other thing bouncing around in my head…..Just play

I took my older daughters to the G.I.Joe movie with me.  Between going to the Dojo with me, the character of Jinx from the movie and Yao Fei's daughter Shado from the CW series “Arrow” (very cool show btw) my oldest daughter has shown a renewed interest in the martial arts.

In the past I have tried to teach my daughter with limited success.  Usually we both left frustrated.  What I teach isn't really “for kids”, I have high standards, and to be honest I probably expect far too much from my oldest daughter.

So I was very happy when my oldest asked – hey you wanna play ninja school? 

Hell yeah I do!

In the Arashi Kage there is a:
Hard Master
Soft Master
Old Master
Young Master

Snake Eyes can’t talk so he is the Silent Master.  I love to talk and I am loud so following the balance of opposites, I took for myself the title of the Resonant Master.

Balance of opposites Fire and Water

Like a scene from any decent 80’s action flick my basement is a combination of Dojo, weight room, gun range, and laundry room.  We decided this would be a perfect Arashi Kage Dojo.

I have been working on using low kicks (lower body) along with blocking structure (upper body) to enter into "close in / in fighting"  range (crash in) myself so I figured I just let her play with it.  

Just let her play with it would become a key concept for me.

I started playing by saying the Arashi Kage train in “golden movement”
For a move to be gold it must:
Improve your position
Worsen the their position
Protect you from damage
Allows you to damage them.

It secures your perimeter (keeps you covered)
Disrupts his ability to attack you (stuns him, unbalances him, changes his orientation, undermines what he needs in order to attack you)
Sets up your next move.

This happens with EVERY move you make, not every technique, but every move within that technique.

Sounds pretty good right?  I kick ass at playing Ninja school.

That isn't from any Arashi Kage ninja scroll.  You may recognize it as  Rory Miller’s Golden Standard and Marc MacYoung’s standard of effective technique.

Hmmm, I guess I made them defacto Arashi Kage masters.  Marc can be the Fuzzy Master and Jimerfield Sensei can be the Bald Master

Rory can be the Cerebral Master – does that mean we need a dumb ass master?  Naw, sadly the world is full of enough dumb ass ninja masters we don’t need any more. 

But in playing with these Arashi Kage secret golden techniques my daughter was instinctively picking up

Motion – Drop step
Power generation

And having fun while she did it.  I have the bruises to prove it!

Just let her play with it

Playing ingrains things faster. 

How long does it take to pick up a video game?  Did you read the book first or just start dicking around with the game?  Did the book even help?

Also hitting on point #4 

- It must 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. – 

Under adrenal stress your cognitive function is diminished.  The part of your brain that understood the directions for the video game you read before you started playing gets harder to access as adrenalin rises and other parts of your brain take over.

Playing also trains the parts of the brain that are taking over under stress.

An example of this can be seen in learning a language.  It is useful for troops to be able to speak the native language of their theater of operation.  Learning language traditionally is difficult and lengthy for adults.

The military has developed a  1st person shooter in which you must pick up conversational Farsi to advance in the game.  Troops just playing picked up Farsi much faster than by traditional language training.

How is this useful to Operators and/or Martial Artists?

Allow yourself, allow your students the freedom to just play

Now you know…
And knowing is half the battle
(The other half involves guns and blowing shit up)

Train hard – Train Smart – Be safe

Yo Joe!