Monday, April 25, 2016

I left my heart in San Francisco (and Oakland)

Violence Dynamics West Coast After Action Review.

After a training seminar I like to collect my thoughts, and review what I leaned.  I figured I would share it as a blog post for a couple of reasons.  I promised weekly posts and have been falling behind, to show folks what they missed out on, and to encourage folks to attend the next training opportunity.

Day 1 of the seminar I was at work in Minnesota, such is life.
I was lucky enough that guys came in early and stayed late to I could get on the road.

Meanwhile in the Bay area
Session 1: Registration, introductions, and familiarization with the 1-step drill / training method
Session 2: Violence Dynamics

Session 3: Counter Assault
Session 4: Leverage

Back at stately Keckeisen manor.
I finished packing (way over packing).  I grabbed a small suitcase from down stairs.  Jes told me to grab a big one.  Somehow my brain took that message as a challenge to test the structural integrity of the bag.

Jes and the girls dropped me off.  I checked my bag outside.  5lbs over.  I had my back pack with me so that I could have easy access to my laptop and note books to rehearse my presentation on the plane.  The agent said my bag had to lose 2 lbs so I jammed my back pack with as much stuff as I could fit.  Made it.

However, now I needed to get my computer out of that bag for TSA security check.  I did my best not to hold up the line.  The TSA agent asked why I didn't have a Batman watch.  I wasn't following.  He said well you have a Batman T-shirt, Laptop, Thumb drive, no watch?  I told him any watch I wear is a Batman watch.  He asked me what was my favorite Batman.  He must be checking if I was legit.  I told him Frank Miller's is my favorite.  He asked if I read DKIII  I told him I had enjoyed the first 4 issues but I haven't picked up the 5th.  That must have been the right answer, because he helped me repack my bags and expedite my trip through the check point.

It was a weird kind of late night flight.  It was only half booked and the pilot was either very chill or had something he needed to do in San Francisco.  Because there was an announcement that everybody that was flying had checked in so we will be leaving 45 minutes early.  Cool.  I had poor boy 1st class,  a row all to myself.

I spent most of the flight going over my presentation.  I wasn't on the schedule to teach many things, so I really wanted to blow people away when I had the opportunity to get in front of them.
When I had reviewed it for the umpteenth time and was starting to drag as I was on about hour 18 or 19 by this time I started watching Creed.  The movie was just getting to the big climax when we landed.
Ironically enough we were about an hour early and there was no gate ready for us so we were going to hang out on the tarmac for awhile.  I figured hey great I can watch the end of the movie.  But they turned off the in flight entertainment.  So I figured I better let people know I was in early.
I was expecting Keelin (who ran organization and logistics for Viody West Coast) to pick me up
I had never met Keelin in person before, but she was described to me as this.

So that is what I was looking for.
Instead I was greeted by this

Ugh, yuck :)  Marc was nice enough to pick me up, because he knew what I looked like.
The airline did not lose my bag, Yeah!  And Keelin picked us up.
Picked us up... and took us to some remote desolate location.  I don't want to use the term "secondary crime scene" but I mentioned to her if this was a foreign country and she was a cab driver, this would be the part of the trip that I choked her until she drove me to the hotel.

Turns out we needed to pick up her motorcycle and I needed to follow her with the car to the "cabana".

Good thing I decided to practice my presentation instead of investigating Delta Airlines collection of fine single malt scotch.

Keelin found a cool Air B&B high in the hills over Oakland.

Ahhhh.  I had finally made it.  Now I could just relax and drink Marc's whiskey.  As slick as my stealth skills are, we managed to wake up Terry Trahan

It was nice to get to meet him in person and start to get to know him

I got to bed at a reasonable time (last time I'd be able to say that for awhile)

I am a morning person in general and I was still on CST so I was up early and ready to go!

Day 1 (Day 2 of the seminar) Wednesday 4/13/16

The day started at Whole Foods in the Bay Area - Oakland.  Whole Foods in the Bay area is about what you would imagine.  So I grabbed a box and stuffed it with scrambled eggs, quinoa, and bacon.

We meet up with the crew.   Rory, was not feeling too good.  Apparently some bad calamari was trying to kill him painfully from the inside.

I got to meet Erik Kondo for the first time and some British guy.

That is Erik at the end of the table
I wasn't on the docket to teach in the morning

The morning session looked like this:
Day Two 
Session 1: ConCom 1 - MacYoung
Session 2: ConCom 2 - MacYoung

So I took the opportunity to practice sword fighting with Maija Soderholm and Dillon

Maija subtly reminded me that if I wanted to play I'd have to grab my huge breakfast and go.
In the car Maija mentioned that Toby had given her a English Toffee.

I replied,some English guy at the table was talking about how the clerk at Whole Foods gave him a Toffee because of his British accent.  He must of given it to Toby, and he gave it to you.  I wanted to meet Toby

Or maybe....just maybe that English guy was Toby.

Toby Cowern is the Co of So Mi Co knives.
In my mind rugged survivalist, Royal Marine Toby Cowern looked different.
The guy I met (this is a complement) could cos play as the 10th Doctor

Turns out they are the same guy.

Ok back to the blog, So I took the opportunity to practice sword fighting with Maija Soderholm.
Readers of the blog know what high regard I hold Maija in.  But it is hard to put into words just how good she is.

So I'll steal someone else's words

Ed Calderon is the is the South American representative of the Libre Fighting System, and he works hard to make opportunities to come and learn from Maija.  Here is what he had to say

"Maija Soderholm has been studying and teaching martial arts for over 20 years. She was a private student of Maestro Sonny Umpad for 6 years and is an official lineage holder of his system. She is also my personal teacher of the sword and close friend."

So if a guy who spends a lot of his time training knives comes to the US to train with Maija that is saying something.

Here is a video of her carving up Rory Miller

Ed's Facebook video

Maija took us to Kewesi Simon's gym KES
Click here to check it out

This place is awesome.  It reminded my of the gym from Creed that I saw on the flight down.  (That is why I even mentioned I watched Creed on the way down).  I took mental notes on how he maximized the space for the Skill Mill project I am working with my nephew Ben.

We worked the pendulum drill, focusing on getting offline after contact, especialy to their back (Ura)
Kewesi was fun to play with, I hope I get more opportunities to do so in the future.  This is also where I met Scott "The Mountain That Rides" Drengsen.  I am glad he is nice as he is big.

After that lunch

One of my "I'd like to do if it works out" for the trip was to eat Sushi.  I've only ever had Minnesota sushi.  As good as that is I have to imagine fresh caught has to be better.  And it was

Check out Mijori
Click here

After lunch I got to see Soja for the 1st time.
Click here to check Soja out

I was starting to get jealous about how many cool places there are to train in this area.
I caught up with the crew being taught targeting by Terry.

Really good class.  It was neat to see similar material approached from a different perspective.  As I have written on the blog before.  If you use the chisel of what works to remove all that is unnecessary what remains will look a lot alike regardless of the source.

My take away or my "one thing" from this class was - Also arranging targets by justification.
I like a model I took from Rory - A Targets.  Targets that you don't need strength or a lot of training to hit, that have a high percentage success in affecting the threat.

Another way to look at that is classed by justification.

Tertiary (Not A Targets) - Limbs, doesn't really even hurt, not great targets.  However,  clears obstetrical so range can be closed.  Perfect for when control, not pain / damage is justified

Secondary (Some A Targets)- likely to cause pain up through damage.  When damage is minimal amount of force required to safely end the confrontation.

Primary(All A Targets)  - Likely to cause damage up through lethal force.  High end use of force. When you  have to shut the threat down right fucking now!

That afternoon I got to participate in a series of interview by Erik.  It was a neat format.  Erik drove around and asked me questions.  It was a natural setting and set me at ease.  I feel it went very well. Look for these interviews from the CRGI group.

Click here to check out CRGI

Day 2 (day 3 of the seminar) Thursday 4/14/16
Day Three was range day with Kathy

I am very fortunate that I get to be on the range about every other week.  Not including training on my own.  So I took the opportunity to steal Maija's Kung Fu.

This time we went to The Suigetsukan
Click here to check out Mike E's Dojo

Exactly the place I wanted to open when I was 19.  So Cool.  I got to meet Mike E.  Another Aikido, Judo,  Jujutsu, Battodo guy.  I knew I was going to like him by looking at his book shelf before I ever met him.  I was not wrong.  That, and he was nice enough to let us play at his beautiful school.

Dillon has been learning Bagua from Maija and it has influenced out hits for Hits for Jits program.
In order for Dillon to learn the 2 man form he needs another man.  So I got to learn 1/2 of the form.

So that I can help Dillon help our program grow, and because it is fun.
If you use the chisel of what works to remove all that is unnecessary what remains will look a lot alike regardless of the source.

We returned to Soja and just missed the rest of the crew.  I had had about enough Whole Foods so Dillon and I found a neat burger joint.  I had 2 burgers.  Scientifically speaking that was exactly 1 burger too much.

After waddling back to Soja I met the rest of the gang which consisted of people that did not go to the range.  The afternoon was set for open classes to address student's questions.
Marc and Terry covered some points on situational awareness.

That is the back of Nick's head.  He put in a lot of work to make this seminar happen

I contributed how situational awareness can enhance counter assault training.  I got to play some Soja drills with some of the Soja guys.  Playing the role of a larger grappler.  A perspective they don't get to see as much.  I also may have inadvertently exposed the Soja's childern's class to the term "Random Blowjob Midget" but only history can judge me

Some other folks came back from the range.  Keelin and I had discussed working on takedowns so Dillon and I got to play with her.  It was fun to see a young woman toss larger stronger opponents (one of which was genetically engineered by the gods not to be thrown) with minimal effort.  After watching us play Terry asked if I had ever done any catch wrestling.  That one of the nicest things a guy could say to me.  That is also one of the things I love about Katamedo (The way of Grappling) the principles are universal only the rules differ.  Judo with out rules looks a lot like catch wrestling.

Tammy Yard McCracken (from Kore Krav Maga - Click here to check out Kore) had contact with some women from South Africa that were facing a particular method of attack.

The treat would take a high mount pinning their arms with his knees and choking them with both hands around their throat.  So a bunch of us knocked out some solutions.

Tammy's knee found my kidney several times and she was able to make it work

The days start to blur together.  I think it was that night that we went to an Ethiopian place for dinner and I got to meet Lisa Scheff and Lisa Abbott.  Apparently I was hogging one of the dishes, and clearly Lisa Abbot had enough of that bullshit.

Day 3 (Day Four the seminar) Friday 4/15/16
Threat Assessment   - Terry
Terry put on another stellar class.  Again, it was interesting to see similar material approached from a different perspective.  Surround yourself with smart people you can argue with.

After that class we had blindfold drills with  -  Rory.  Always a good time and ironically eyeopening.  I took the opportunity to to do the 2 man Bagua form with Dillon blind.  Not too bad for having just learned it.  I also got to cross hands with Maija.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

 An Shen Pao amid the chaos of the one step 

I was up next with ground movement.  Here is my least favorite picture from the trip.

My new take away from this class is another way to describe the process. Learning to relax in what can be a scary situation and do the math. The threat is just a 3D meat math problem that needs to be solved. Also ground skills should be done at least twice a year on concrete and pavement. It is easy to fall in love with grappling. As such we need a reminder that the ground hurts.

The day ended with - Weapons Familiarization - with Kathy.
It was weird being around people to which guns were new and scary. Kathy did a great job taking the fear and mystique out of the tool.

Day 4 (Day Five of the seminar) Saturday 4/16/16
Finally I took "The Main Stage" with Self Defense Law.

I felt it went really well. Probably the best I have ever presented this material. I'm glad I put the extra prep time in.

My take away was how to manage time during the presentation. With stories, questions and debates, it is easy to go over time. I was happy that I was able to stick to the schedule, and that I exposed an entirely new crowd to the concept of the "JUSTICE FIST"!

My class was followed by - Weapon Defense - with Terry

Terry is arguably one of the best Silat guys around, who happens to live with another of the worlds best Silat guys and they keep each other sharp.  Side note -  I was very happy to meet Edwin Voskamp in person.  I am also very pleased that the number of my friends that could be legit Bond villains continues to grow.

It was great to bullshit check the weapons defenses I do with for Law Enforcement and hope to do for the Police Explorers in the not too distant future with these subject matter experts.

Bump the record, but...if you use the chisel of what works to remove all that is unnecessary what remains will look a lot alike regardless of the source.

A takeaway for this class related to ground skills is that knife training should hurt.  It is also easy to fall in love with knives, and thus lose a healthy fear of them.  If we as instructors leave out students with the feeling that knives are easy to deal with we have failed them.  There are no good, or best knife solves.  There are only the least bad solutions to shitty situations.

The next class was - Environmental Fighting - with Rory.
I ran a station in the corner of the East Bay Rats Motorcycle Club - Clubhouse.

My favorite part of this class, this time through was adding in a little plastic mind.  On one of the rotations, one of the players had to imagine that they were going through Chemotherapy.  They are weak and tired.  All of their size and former strength is worthless.  They had to rely on directing the momentum of the threats attack into the environment.  See also getting the threat to hurt themselves.

Wait, that was my second favorite part.  My favorite was when Tammy launched  a speed bag attached to the floor and ceiling by strong bungees into my stupid face.

The last part of the day was Q/A where I had an opportunity to address neck manipulation.  One of my favorite things.

Day 5 (Day six of the seminar) Sunday 5/17/16
The last day was advanced people watching at the farmer's market.

I focused my presentation on how angles and elevation can be used to hide and learning through play.

I was asked to provide some of the games I play with my daughters so next blog post will be ODIN games.

Anna Valdiserri was kind enough to give me and Lise a copy of each of her books
A Woman's Toolkit Buy Here and Trauma Aware Self Defense Instruction Buy Here
When I asked her to sign mine to make Lise jealous she smashed me in the face and yelled JUSTICE FIST

As I lay on the ground trying to snap my dislocated jaw back into place she pointed at me and said totally justified.

Also, speaking of learning through play, it turns out if you use the guy from Cyprus for your neck manipulation demo he kills you with sneakiness the next day.  Thanks Dan :)

Defeat has consequences

I wasn't the only one that got killed
Stephany Howard won a very distinctive award for "taking out" a guy that has survived some scary shit.

As I've said before as tough as we train to be we are all just 7 liters of blood in a skin sack.  Don't fight what you should hunt.

Good end to a good week

And I made a dream come true, Ben Cerasi finally got to meet me in person

I met so many great people and trained in so many fantastic venues.  If I forgot to mention you, please forgive me.  I get hit in the head a lot and am exposed to repetitive concussive force (things that go boom) so my memory isn't what it should be.

After training Marc, Rory and Terry had to leave.  So I said my goodbyes and headed to Maija's place.

That night sitting around the table with Maija, Ed, Toby, Keelin, and Dillon was one of my favorite memories from this trip.  Lots of laugh with new and old friends.

I still have George Michael's "careless whisper" stuck in my head.  Not my story to tell.

Day 6 (tourist day) Monday 4/18/16
Another of my if there is time I'd like to's was seeing China Town.
So we packed into Maija truck and headed to San Francisco.  As we passed the bay Maija pointed out how the cranes inspired the art director of the Empire Strikes Back to create AT - ATs

I got to eat Dim Sum on a roof top with Dillon and discuss the martial arts.  What else are we going to talk about the difference between 10th Street and 10th Avenue.  Clearly not.

I got big Coolie hat (can I say coolie is that racist?) I got a big China Town hat like "Bruce" Leroy Green

And Dillon and I got Kung Fu Uniforms for my daughters.  As a souvenir and to further encourage training.

That evening I said goodbye to Toby and practiced Kung Fu in Maija's yard.  Working on the 8 openings of Bagua (5 of the 8).  A very good way to safely transition from striking range to control.  Not all that different than Terry's tertiary targets.  If you use the chisel of what works to remove all that is unnecessary what remains will look a lot alike regardless of the source

Finished the night with fantastic pork stew at a Thai place, the rest of Toby's Vodka and Steven Segal's "Into the Sun".  Maija will not accept an honorific.  She does not want to be called Sensei, Sifu, or Guru, and she gets kind of pissed if you do.  However, I think I can now get away with calling her Dai Ryu or great Dragon.  I figure if I do it will make it easier for Dillon and Ed.  They can say - some call you by that name.

Turned out I had enough time before my flight to attend Maija's official Bagua class at Mike E's Dojo to get as much Kung Fu as possible before I left.

Maija dropped me off at the BART which took me right to the airport.

A successful week.  I checked off all of my if there is time I'd like to list.
I kicked ass on my presentation, and I learned how I'd like to run things in the future.

My wife was nice enough to pick me up while balancing three girl's dance, sports, pictures, and school schedules.

Things went well.  As I waited for my wife at the airport I thought how thongs could be done better in the future and I developed the VioDy Protocols.

One of which will be not putting my wife under that much stress again.  I felt the need to be at this VioDy as it was the first outside of Minnesota.  Now that the road show is established I can pick and chose which ones I'll attend so that I don't make things unnecessary hard on her.

Speaking of....

Viody will return in VioDy Next Gen in Edmonton Alberta Canada.  Hosted by and featuring Randy King, also featuring Myron Cossitt, Dillon Beyer, and as the crusty old man of this group - Me

I'm excited to take what I've learned in the Bay area and apply it up there.
You aint seen nothing yet....
Stay tuned for details

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Crucible

  1. a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.
    • a place or occasion of severe test or trial.
      "the crucible of combat"
    • a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new.
      "the crucible of the new Romantic movement"

A sword cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials
- Samurai Maxim

Hey everybody, it has been a few weeks.  Although I promised a blog / week I think this counts as meeting that goal, as I have been working on this blog for the last few weeks, and therefore it will be more in depth. (maybe go grab a cup of coffee, if you are going to read the whole thing in one sitting you are going to be here for awhile)

This week is the end of the semester at the Dojo which means next week is TEST WEEK!!!
This is an exciting time (possibly anxiety causing) for the students and for me.

Here are some words I wrote to my students back in '09 before I started the Budo Blog

Test anxiety

December 3, 2009 at 10:09am
It's that time again. Time to put up or shut up!!! A great challenge and opportunity. Remember we have been reviewing the techniques specific to your test for over a year. Also remember that more important than the techniques / etiquette themselves is how you react to the test. To feel fear in the face of a challenge is human nature. To overcome that fear, to use the fear to inspire yourself to further mastery and accomplish your goal is the purpose of training. Ships are safest in the harbor but that is not what ships are built for. Anyone can pull a technique with a cooperative partner under no pressure. We train to have the peace of mind and skill to pull that same technique against someone who is trying to hurt / kill us. Remember in the dojo the worst thing that will happen is you may need to retest in a few months (which may be very beneficial – ask McClure Sensei). Outside the dojo the worst that will happen is serious injury or death. When you compare the two, getting upset about putting on pajamas and engaging in a performance art presentation while other people in pajamas grade you should seem kind of silly. So RELAX!!!, control your breathing, find your center, lower your weight, remember your basics, remember your basics, remember your basics, and go kick ass on your test. I have confidence in all of you. I wouldn't even bother testing you if I didn't all ready know you have the skill to pass. Now demonstrating that skill under pressure is up to you. 


I haven't run a test since then, approaching 7 years.  Why?
It was right around then that I started to look critically at what I was doing, and determine what I wanted to accomplish.  I began training with Steven Jimerfield, Marc MacYoung, and Rory Miller.

Those experiences fundamentally changed my approach.  One of the most profound changes was a shift in focus away from passing on a style to helping to develop individuals.  Helping people reach their own unique potential.

If I am focusing on principles rather than techniques, and I am not concerned about passing on a style or maintaining a tradition, why would I test?  How would I test?

Recently, in my mind a couple of gears have fit together.  A bunch of things have fallen into place. Some questions were answered and other things started to make sense.

Every Instructor that has been teaching for any amount of time has experienced this phenomenon.
You see something a student needs to work on, for example lets use the principle of two way action.
You point out that their push is very strong, but would be made far stronger if they also pulled with the opposite side.  The student is smart, he/she gets the idea in theory but continues to only push.  You continue to point out how also pulling will make it stronger, so much so that you have developed short hand.  Every time you see the same perceived flaw you say push pull.  This goes on for awhile.  Until one day you travel together, or host a clinic with a different Instructor.  I'm not sure if it is hearing it from a different perspective or it is said in an ever so slightly different way that it "clicks" with the student, or just hearing it for the 1000th time, but invariably that Instructor will say your push is very strong, but would be made far stronger if you also pulled with the opposite side.
Boom mind blown!!!!  Now they are using push / pull - two way action with everything they do and it is like they are super human.  Demonstrably more powerful with less effort.  And you are happy for them but you are also like WTF?  I have been busting my balls trying to get you to do that for months and you looked at me like I have a 3rd arm growing out of the back of my head, this guy whispers in your ear and all of a sudden you are a god of war. 

Why I bring this up, is I have done this same myself.

How many times on this blog have I written martial art is not self defense? (Spoiler alert - lots)
I've also said many times that anything you like to do can be "weaponized" for use in self defense.
For example if you spent your youth playing Volley Ball you will have greater success learning how to use your overhand serve as a debilitating strike as opposed to spending years learning how to Box from scratch.

For self defense you will need several physical skills, what we call building blocks at Violence Dynamics.

Building Block Include (but are not limited to)

Ukemi (break falls, how to land safely)
Irimi (Entries, how to safely close on a threat)
Crashing (Bodyweight smashes into people)
Counter assault (Operant conditioned responses to ambushes and suckerpunches)
Ground Movement (Basic Grappling)
Ground Controls (Pins and positioning and escapes)
Striking from the ground
Shime waza and neck breaks
Weapon Retention (Mostly for cops)
Spine Controls
Integration (A training system to forge all of the Building Blocks into a single fighting system)

If you look at a Jujitsu syllabus (at least at the Keishoukan Dojo and other Katamedo Jujitsu schools)  It covers all of those building block (and more) 

Martial art is not self defense.  However if any physical activity you enjoy can be weaponized for self defense, and you happen to like Jujitsu which just so happens to cover all of the building blocks required for self defense, then maybe....just maybe couldn't Jujitsu be weaponized for self defense?

I know it seems obvious but this was a major revelation for me.

So I could teach martial art to folks that really enjoy martial art, and sharpen my building blocks in the process.  Anyone that wanted to use Jujitsu for self defense could also attend the Violence Dynamics Seminar in the fall.

Not every student can do that.  Regular classes are Mondays  and Wednesdays in Mounds View (see last blog about out new home at the Mounds View Community Center - which is working out fantastic BTW) and Tuesdays in Elk River at The Legion of Doom

I decided to have one class a month, the last Tuesday of every month in Elk River dedicated to the Violence Dynamics core curriculum (Operational Disciplines)

  • Context of Violence (Magnificent 7)
  • Conflict Strategy
  • Violence Dynamics
  • Force Law
  • Con Com 
That way I keep fresh on presenting the information.  Students get the training on a regular basis and it gives them time to process the information and complete the home work and self training games / drills.

I look at this as a self defense enhancement to Jujitsu.  I developed an ODIN certification.  Any Jujitsu student that completes all 5 classes and/or a Violence Dynamics Seminar gets an Operative status.  Each additional series or seminar completion earns the next ODIN rank.

People only interested in self defense, that could give two shits about Jujitsu are also welcome at the Operational Disciplines class.  They will just need to find their own way (something they enjoy doing that can be weaponized) to develop their building blocks.

That is one of the coolest things about GOOD self defense instruction.  Physical skills should be your last line of defense.

If you have a solid knowledge of the Violence Dynamics core curriculum (Operational Disciplines) the likelihood of you ever needing to rely on physical skills to protect yourself is greatly reduced  

Teaching Jujitsu for the fun of martial art to people that enjoy martial art was one gear.
Keeping martial art and self defense separate but related and teaching a Operational Disciplines class to people that want to use their martial arts for self defense was another gear.

Those gears fit together nicely but they the engine was not complete just yet.

My Police Department is in the process of starting a Explorer's post.  I have been working on ways I can be of use to this program, how I would run it.

Probably just the nerd in me but when you boil it down the Police Explorers program is not all that different than a young Bruce Wayne traveling the world to gather the skills he will need to one day fight crime.  That, and you get to learn how to operate firearms as well (like Earth 2 or Zach Snyder Batman :) ).  So I went about looking at the program through the spectrum of what would 14 year old Kasey would want out of it, and how could 24 year old Kasey (starting his career in Law Enforcement) benefit from it.

My friend up in Isanti County allowed my to experiment with this idea on his Explorer post.
It went great, and was a lot of fun.

Proof of the pudding was in a conversation I overheard.  One young man is a freshman in collage and has been in the program for 5 years.  The other is also in his late teens, but this was only his second Explorer's meeting.
"So do you like Explorer's now?  Are you going to come back"
"Hell yeah - this is great!"

Another young man came up to me after class and said "Thanks, I want to be a brutal cop like you some day"
Thanks...I guess?
From the context I'm sure he meant Brutal -  like heavy metal not like abusing people's rights.

This was a lot of fun and fits directly into the Violence Dynamics mandate - Build Strong People
It was very rewarding to see the progress these young people made towards that end.

One of the projects this experiment inspired was to develop an objective DT qualification process.  For Explorers and (hopefully)Law Enforcement.  One, to make sure they can apply fundamental skills under pressure.

"An individual can test the efficacy of any combat method by asking himself this simple question “Will this work so I can use it instinctively in vital combat against an opponent who is determined to prevent me from doing so, and is striving eliminate me through means fair or foul?” 
- Col. Rex Applegate “Kill or be killed” 

Secondly, to make Explorers even more fun.

This forced me to take a hard look at the Combat Sambo, Modern Army Combatives Program, Freestyle Judo and USA Combat Wrestling competition systems for a best practises assessment.

I wrote about the benefit of competition in a recent blog, click here to check it out or read it again 
(it is worth a second read)

Competitive Jujitsu doesn't help with self defense?
Yes it does:
Any competition, regardless of the rule set, in which you stand alone against a restive opponent intent on defeating you, helps prepare you for self defense.

I would go so far as to say that someone with no self defense training, but sport competition experience against someone who may be willing to hurt them in order to win has as good if not better chance at surviving a physically violent interpersonal conflict than someone that has excellent self defense training but has never been tested.

Clutch the pearls!!! How dare Kasey say such a thing!

"If your sword is too short, add to its length by taking one step forward"- anonymous
Put up or shut up

I am very pleased with what I have come up with.  The competition system will be another blog in and of itself in the up coming weeks.

I will share what I feel are two major facets that set what I have developed / am developing apart from other competition systems though.

No department is going to want a system, or let their Officer's go train in a system that wrecks their Officers.  So a focus on injury free training is paramount.

Law Enforcement does not need to, nor should they practise dying.

"When it comes I won’t even notice… I’ll be too busy lookin’ good."

Tapping prevents injury by submission.  Nice move bro, you got me this time.
You win or you learn.

However, "on the street" to Law Enforcement submission is death.  If you ever get a chance ask Steve Jimerfield about death fights.  The experience will be eye opening.

If a cop quits he or she dies.  

I believe I have found a way to directly incorporate the idiom - you win or you learn - directly into the rule set.

Ingraining a never give up attitude and inculcating when it is necessary to ramp up to higher levels of force in the most realistic way safely possible.

Sounds cool right?  You want to learn more, give this a shot don't you

I hope so.

I plan on sharing this competition system in February 2017 at the USMAA  North Central Regional Training Camp.

I also understand that this might not be every one's cup of tea.  I have to accept that maybe no one will want to sign up for these games.

I felt that this had too much potential benefit to go to waste.  So I broke the games down and incorporated them into regular Dojo training.

Another gear clicked into place.

If these games were developed for Explorers and Law Enforcement, to make sure they can apply fundamental skills under pressure, and because they are fun - couldn't they also be used as an objective test of skills at the Dojo?

That question inspired yet another project, which brings us back to the title of this week's blog post.  The Crucible

If I am focusing on principles rather than techniques, and I am not concerned about passing on a style or maintaining a tradition, why would I test?  How would I test?

1) Why would I test?

Goals / Purpose of testing:
Testing can help students develop their own method.  Find what works best for them.  What best suits the individual student's needs.

Memorizing a list of techniques sent from some sort of central headquarters, especially if those techniques have not been regularly trained does very little to make the student better, use those techniques under pressure, or reflect relevant skills.  All it shows is a student's ability to mimic their instructor.  

I don't want flawed imitations of me, or my teachers.  I want outstanding originals.

A copy of a copy of a copy does not turn out well

Tokui Waza is a Japanese term which means favorite technique.  
Testing can be a tool to help students develop their Tokui Waza 

*Caveat - I expect that over time a student will understand the principles behind what they do so well they will be able to extrapolate those principles to become proficient at other aspects that might not come easily or naturally to them at first.

 I regard functional self-protection skills as a base-level entry requirement for any system"
 - Iain Abernethy

Testing can help to develop survival skills to the level of proficiency as quickly as possible, so that you have the rest of your life to develop your skills to the level of mastery.

It shouldn't take 5 years of training and a black belt to not get your ass kicked.

Let's look at throws for example.  What is the purpose?  To put someone on the ground.  So let's say you have a 5' nothing 100 and nothing female that can throw everyone in class with a killer foot sweep.  However, the test from headquarters says lists Kata Guruma (Shoulder wheel a throw which requires you to pick your opponent up across your shoulders) on her test.  She understands the principles involved to make Kata Guruma work.  But it is a struggle for her, and she never hits it against any type of resistance.  Should she waste precious training time on technique that she will never use in application because it was on a piece of paper?  Or should she develop skills that allow her to hit the foot sweep she is great at from all sorts of situations and set ups?  Build her own transitions through the different building blocks into and out of that foot sweep.  Find her own progressions - there are only a handful of ways to resist this foot sweep, if they do that what are they handing me?

If the purpose of throwing is to put someone on the ground, isn't that ability that should be tested?  Not the ability to memorize an arbitrary technique to make that happen,

And if she can't pull a Kata Guruma will she fail the test?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

― Albert Einstein

I don't want fish trying to climb trees, I want god damned killer sharks.

I don't want a swimming monkey I want a god damned beast
The testing process can be a frame work for students to critically look at their attributes and skills.  What are the most efficient methods for me to take someone down?

Take downs are a key building block.  I don't care how you take some one down, only that you have the ability to do so.

Testing can insure students are proficient in all fundamental building blocks.

I don't care which methods you use, they just have to work.  As Marc MacYoung is fond of saying, you can build your house any way you please but its must pass the building code inspection.

Testing can be a means to show a student how far they have progressed.  It can provide an objective reasonable standard that shows the student how their hard work has paid off

This accomplishment has been earned.  It is not a participation trophy.  It is not handed out.

Testing can provide a crucible,  A rite of passage.  A worthy challenge.  A safe place to test skills under increasingly high levels of pressure.

As I have mentioned there is no guarantee that anyone else will want to participate in the competition system I have developed.  However, versions of those competitions can be used to show proficiency against a resisting opponent throughout the different building blocks.

Students wont have a false sense of their abilities because a beautifully decorated piece of paper assured them.

If the person above is a real guy I apologize.  
I googled "lame martial arts rank certificate" and this is what came up

They will know in their bones what they are capable of doing.  Because they did it.  Against someone who was trying to stop them from doing so.  They were pushed, they were tested, they survived, they thrived, they came out the other end changed and they were better off for it.  Confidence built from competence.  They will know where to focus their efforts to improve the areas that need work, and they will be given the tools to accomplish that work.

Sensei McClure often said be happy if a teacher scolds you, or you failed a test.  Because now you know exactly what to work on.  You have something concrete to focus all of your effort on.
(and knowing is half the battle Yo Joe!!!)

In testing, competition, or training some sort of force on force objective assessment is necessary.

One of my favorite experiences with Toyama Ryu Batto Jutsu was tamishigiri.
Your kata can look perfect, but literally - can you cut it?

The tatami doesn't care what your time in grade is.  You can either cut it or you can't

Testing can be used to show proficiency against a resisting opponent throughout the different building blocks.

Testing can also help a student integrate skills from all the different building blocks into a single coherent fighting system.  One that is unique to the individual, taking full advantage of their attributes and strengths, while minimizing their weaknesses.

Building stronger people (making sharks and beasts)

Another gear fit into place

2) How would I test?
Instead of a master list, with each grade having to know specific techniques, I will have students demonstrate their best technique/s from each of the building blocks we cover.  

That number will increase as they progress, as will the proficiency requirement for their core method Tokui Waza.  

For example lets use the girl with the killer leg sweep again.  She will need to be good at other throws as well as she progresses, and lets say she scored a 7 out of 10 on her leg sweep.  She will need to score at least an 8 on her next test.

Just as a took a hard look at different competition systems I respected, I have spent the last several years conducting a best practises assessment of different people I have had the honor of working with.
And that has been a two way street.  For example Omar Ahmad has incorporated counter assault drills (like the ones used at Violence Dynamics) into every Katamedo Jujitsu test.  I love it, so I am stealing that.  
Omar also has progressions and skill wheels as part of the testing process.
Rory Miller's "Drills" book is full of well, drills duh that suit my needs
Randy King has a process to pressure test his students at the end of training that is also very useful.
Lastly I have developed a series of increasingly higher resistance force on force situations.

I'm excited.  Stay tuned I'll let you know how it goes.

The last gear clicked, the engine worked.

Designing a test that fit my goals really helped sharpen what I teach, and when I teach it
If I want to test it I better cover it, several times or I am a hypocrite.  Why test it, if we don't train it. If you don't train it why bother testing it.

Keep what is useful disregard what is unnecessary / contradictory.

Train hard, train smart, be safe

Find a worthy challenge - face your crucible 

No man could understand.
My power is in my own hand,
Ooh, ooh, ooh, people talk about you,
People say you've had your day.

I'm a man, man that will go far,
Fly the moon and reach for the stars,
With my sword and head held high,

Got to pass the test first time, yeah.

Queen "Princes of the Universe"