Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Old Man Logan

A couple things all happened this last week to inspire this blog.

Friday night I took the family to go see the Lego Batman movie.  We all loved it.

Clearly I loved it

Spoiler alert -  the next clip is the best part of the movie so don't watch it if you want to be surprised in theaters.  Further warning, if you do watch this clip that song will be stuck in your head forever.

The next day was a day off of work.  So I had strength training planned followed by John Wick 2 with some buddies from the Dojo (and the girls...what? they are dog lovers)

With that Batman song stuck in my head I attacked my work out (Batman does not skip leg day)

I felt stiff as I was doing it but I powered through (Batman does not skip leg day)

Went to the movie as a reward for my hard work, home made pizza that fit my macros for dinner, a great day...

Until about 6 that night when the muscles in my back turned into concrete and all I was capable of doing was to rock back and fourth in the fetal position, suck my thumb, and try not to cry.

Sunday really sucked.  I was no longer Batman.  I could no longer choke hold a bear.  I was just old and broken.

I wasn't the god damned Batman, I was Old Man Logan

For readers of the Budo Blog that might not be comic book nerds.  Old Man Logan is a story arc that happens in the not too distant future where Wolverine no longer has his healing abilities and has to live with a lifetime of accumulated  injuries in a post apocalyptic landscape.

As comic book stories go circumstances arise where he needs to come out of "retirement" to be The Wolverine again, but he is just Old Man Logan.

As I lay on the couch praying that this was just temporary muscle strain / soreness not a more serious injury it occurred to me how much I self identify with my physicality.

I self identify as a physical being, the guy that picks up and power bombs his kids onto the couch to show affection.  The guy that lifts heavy things and gets thrown and choked for fun.

What am I when I can no longer do that?

If I base my self protection on that robust physicality, how can I protect myself when I no longer have those attributes?

Ironically, along those lines Dillon, Shane and I were discussing exactly that idea after the movie Saturday in regard to this YouTube clip.

Let me start off by stating I am not ripping on the video or the instructors depicted in it.
However, clearly there is some perception bias.

The question of what are the best take downs for self defense was asked of a fit 180 lb man with years of successful grappling competition under his belt.

So, clearly his answers will be influenced by those factors.

It also appears that his definition of self defense is a bar fight, or your typical meet me after school social violence encounter between men of relatively the same age and size.

In those parameters his answers make sense.

However, with my back feeling like concrete I had to ask myself would those strategies work for me if I had to protect my life against a bigger, stronger, more physically capable attacker right now.

The easy answer was no.

Would those strategies work for Anna?

Anna is five foot nothing weighs one hundred and nothing and has chronic pain issues.
Busting Anna's chops aside  a bigger, stronger, more physically capable attacker is nearly everyone on the planet for her.

What are the best takedowns for her?  What are the best take downs for busted up old man Kasey?

Kind of a trick question - there are no good take downs for self defense, only the least bad, if the circumstances dictate a takedown will help you fight to your goal.

So...What are better strategies?

Any physical skill should be a last line of defense.

Multiple redundant layers of security help protect against a bigger, stronger, more physically capable attacker.

Multiple Redundant layers:

1) Avoidance
Don't be places violence is likely to happen

If you can't or won't avoid these places
2) Escape

Anyone can lose at at any time.  Even The Batman, even Kasey F'n Keckeisen (especially if he is injured)

Shameless self plug - Randy King will be teaching escape tactics at the USMAA regional training camp next week.  If you teach self defense, don't pay lip service to actual escape training.  Come to camp and steal Randy's drills

Sign up HERE

If you can't escape, use your head and verbal skills

Sadly sometimes running or talking just don't work.  Do I need to act?  If you have time to ask the question you most likely don't and running and talking are still options.  If you don't have time to ask yourself that question you are being attacked and all you are left with is...

4) Fight
Three legitimate reasons to use force on someone

  • Control 
  • Escape
  • Disable
Unless you are a professional user of force and have a duty to act control is not a priority option

What take downs are best for escape?
Ferociously striking vital targets, clawing, scratching are better tactics for escape.
However, if the threat gets a hold of you and you can't escape, anything you can do to increase chaos is going to help your situation.  This will not look like sport Judo, Sambo, or Wrestling.

It will use the basic principles of grappling.

Move - get to a positional orientation where you are taking less damage
Grab - tie up a limb that could be used to damage you
Off balance - use their motion to get their nose over their toes, or their  head over their heals
Fit in - quick rule of thumb touch their hip bone with your own hip bone
Execute - after you hip tag sprint through their hips in the direction they are off balance

I have been knocked flat on my ass by people even smaller than Anna using these principles.

Use the time it takes the attacker to get back up to run to safety.

If you can't escape all you have left is disable

What take downs are best to disable?

Any of the above that also
Directs the attacker's head into the ground
Directs the attacker's head into a wall
Directs the attacker down a flight of stairs
Directs the attacker into traffic

Use of the environment gives you a fighting chance.

5) High end use of force
If you are out classed in size, strength, ability, if you are injured or disabled, if you are in a dangerous environment, you are justified using a higher level of force.

A sobering fact is that the only way to end some situations may be to use lethal force.

Have you considered this?
Are you capable of this?  It is not hard to damage a human - technically.  Giving yourself permission to do so can be very hard.  These are things that need to be examined before a violent encounter happens.

If you are capable, do you Carry the tools required to end a threat?
How often do you train with these tools?

If you don't Carry tools, can you end a threat with your hands.
Again it is not is not hard to damage a human
How often do you train with these skills?

Do I think Anna or Busted up old Kasey could grab a young fit trained man in a collar tie and deliver knees until he fell over as depicted in the video?


However, I don't start problems so getting in a social violence encounter is not likely.  If old busted up Kasey is in that situation it is because I have no other options and the threat will not stop until he is disabled.

Do I think Anna or Busted up old Kasey could jam a pencil into a young fit trained man's carotid artery as depicted in the movie John Wick 2?

You bet your ass

Yet another shameless plug.  This June I will be on the east coast with Terry Trahan  who personifies combat as weasel-craft. The thinking man's bad ass.

As I wrote HERE do every thing you can to improve the hand you are dealt.  However, if /when that day comes, you have to play the cards that are in your hand at that time.  So know "Weasel Craft".  There will come a time when you are no longer The Wolverine, and Old Man Logan still has to get the job done.

As for me, thank God by the time I finished writing this blog I felt much better.  However, I never want to feel like I did on Sunday again.

I went back to the drawing board.  I have old shit knees, so I made excuses about my squat depth, and I believed my own bullshit.  So I kept adding weight onto sub par form until I had that shitty Sunday.

I sit down and get up from chairs all day every day.  My knee bends just fine...not under load.

So I am kicking my ego in the balls and starting over again - very light

I also set a goal for myself to compete in a power lifting competition (face the dragon)
Why?  Because they are very strict on form and what they count as a rep.  If I can't squat weight in a competition, then I can't squat weight.

Will I win?  Doesn't matter the drive to have perfect form under increased load over time so I can compete in a few years will achieve the goal of increased strength with out killing my back.

Know your self and know the enemy,  When it comes to weights I will never be free of 18 year old Kasey.  I will always have an ego, I just need to use that ego to achieve my goals - intelligently.

(Kasey doesn't skip leg day)

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cry Baby Part 2 - What are you going to do about it?

Previously on Budo Blog...

We discussed:

That I was a huge crybaby, but necessity has caused me to become emotionally hardened.

Emotions are just how we label what the chemical cocktail dumped into out bloodstream in response to fight or flight stimulus makes us feel

Emotions are natural and you can not be devoid of them, so we have to learn to use emotion to our advantage.

Which leads us to...What are you going to do about it

A baby step, or temporary work around is to turn feeling debilitating negative emotions into feeling more useful negative emotions.

Huh? follow me if you will...

If emotions are just how we label what the chemical cocktail dumped into out bloodstream is making us feel, we can relabel those feelings while we are experiencing them.

Like Ralphie in the clip above.

Ralphie is hurt, sad, scared, embarrassed then....."Deep in the recesses of my mind a tiny little flame began to grow"

Those debilitating emotions turned to anger.  Anger is also a negative emotion but a lot more useful to Ralphie in the circumstances he was in.

Fear and pain can be turned to anger and aggression.  Anger and aggression feel a lot better than fear.

Aggression feels good, aggression feels like winning.

Aggression is encouraged

Remember these feelings caused by adrenalin are a survival mechanism.
Meaning we are still here as a species today, because of these feelings.

If that is true, how come so much self defense training derides adrenalin.

"Under adrenalin you will be be a heaping pile, quivering in the corner, shitting yourself, incapable of doing anything".

If that was true we would not exist as a species today much less be the apex predator on the planet.

Adrenalin gets a bad rap

Adrenalin can give you super powers
Adrenalin can make you:

  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • Bleed less
  • Hyper focused

Fighting angry is better than fighting scared.

However, fighting angry too often leads to fighting stupid.

(Gaining control of your emotions is a useful skill to anyone, even folks that never find themselves in a physical altercation.  For the purpose of this blog fighting and performing can be used as interchangeable terms.  There are different ways to fight.)

The next step is learning how to fight cold.

Learning to fight cold, learning to control your emotions under stress is very similar to learning how to break a freeze.

1) Recognize the symptoms of adrenalization

  • Sweaty palms
  • Face flush - blushing
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Voice Squeaks
Slim Shady gets it

"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready"
- EMINEM "Lose Yourself"

2) Breathe
This might sound like martial arts Jedi bullshit.  However, there is a reason this exists still today in the martial arts.  There is a reason snipers practice this as part of their craft.
  • In through your nose, as much as you can, fill your chest
  • Hold it for a count or two
  • Let it out slowly through your mouth.

This oxygenates your blood and helps you to think more clearly during a time when you are experiencing diminished mental capacity.

3) Move - Do something that effects the world around you.

This one was huge for me.  This helped me turn from a cry baby and start winning some matches.

Both my older brothers were excellent wrestlers.  I allowed that to put a lot of undue pressure on me. I put a lot of undue pressure a lot of unrealistic expectations on myself.

That is my brother Kurt sitting behind Minnesota State High School Hall of Fame Wrestling coach Luverne Klar  

Not unlike what Helen Maroulis wrote - I was afraid...Afraid of not being enough. Afraid of my fear. Afraid of your impression of me.

I was afraid I'd never be as good as them, I was afraid that I was a disappointment, I was afraid of what people thought of me, I was afraid to lose.  Being afraid to lose doesn't make winning easier, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  

To cut through all that bullshit in my head I started focusing on just one thing.
Get a double leg.  Just focus on shooting a technically perfect double leg take down.

Once I got a double leg I was up 2 nothing.  I was winning.  Winning is fun.  Now I'm not afraid, now I'm not trying not to cry.  Now I'm just wrestling.  Just wrestling is easy.

I started racking up some wins, until...
I dislocated my knee again.  Then I was done (for a while)

The kid I beat easily every week for varsity try outs took 3rd in state that year.
Am I bitter?

I'm not that guy.  If I had won state that year, I'd probably never have wrestled again. I most likely never would have started training in martial arts.  If I never started in martial arts I wouldn't have gone down this career path, nor would I be writing this blog.  I wouldn't be writing anything. 

What happened, needed to happen for me to learn these lessons. 

Now at 42 one way or another I wrestle 3-4 times a week and I love it.
Now I'm not afraid, now I'm not trying not to cry.  Now I'm just wrestling.  Just wrestling is easy.

What happened, needed to happen for me to learn these lessons. I know this method can be used for controlling emotions outside of fighting, because I have used these methods to control emotions outside of fighting.

After I dislocated my knee and was back at school, one of my best friends asked me, "are you sad that you will never be able to wrestle again"

Well I wasn't until you phrased it like that....
1) Recognize the symptoms of adrenalization

  • Sweaty palms
  • Face flush - blushing
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Voice Squeaks
Fuck I'm starting to cry
 Heat rushed to my cheeks. I felt my eyes well up. My friend knew it. She saw it in me. 

2) Breathe
  • In through your nose, as much as you can fill your chest
  • Hold it for a count or two
  • Let it out slowly through your mouth.

3) Do something that effects the world around you.

I made a joke (weird humor as a defense mechanism - turning negative emotion into a more useful emotion)

"I wasn't until you rubbed it in my face like that, jeez thanks do you want me to cry in front of all the girls in home room"

Now I'm laughing, now I'm not trying not to cry.

Why does this work?

Let's figure that out - WITH SCIENCE!!!!

In the time it takes to go through these steps your adrenalin has spiked and is dropping.

This chart is from "The Armored Rose" by Tobi Beck which you can purchase HERE

If you can ride that wave and come out on the other side things get easier to manage.

In order for an artificial chemical ( drug) to make us feel something it has to mimic the effects of natural chemicals  / hormones our bodies produce.

In that way adrenalin is much like a drug.  There is a reason there is the term "adrenalin junkie"

Like a drug you eventually build a tolerance for adrenalin.

"I used to do a little but a little wouldn't do it so a little got more and more.  Just kept trying to get a little better, said a little better than before"
"Mr. Brownstone" - Guns and Roses

Experience makes it easier ride the adrenalin spike, success makes it easier.

Ace fighter pilots are only recognized after 5 kills because the first 4 were mostly chance and learning to deal with emotion under extreme stress.  After that skill can be brought into play and you become a god of war.

You can fight cold.

Just like physical skills, you have to find what works for you.  Be the best version of you not a flawed imitation of anyone else.

Remember this from Part 1

Being around boys all of the time, I found myself trying to adopt their mentality. Don’t show emotion. Push through. Don’t expose weakness. I was studying men who won gold medals in wrestling. I tried to mimic their mental game. I couldn’t do it. I tried, but I just couldn’t.

- Helen Maroulis

There are exceptions, however, generally, men and women adrenalize differently.

For most women it takes nearly twice as long for that spike to hit.

That is not better or worse it is just different.  So clearly you will need different or modified strategies for dealing with the adrenalin spike.

This manifests itself with women in the martial arts as crying after a match.  To the uninformed there is an assumption that they must be recovering from some sort violent trauma that happened in their past and the fight triggered them.  Or they are just emotional women - so they cry for no reason.

This is usually the time when one of my daughters punches me for being a jerk.

They are crying after the match for the same reasons I used to cry before the match.  The timing is just different.

Again this is a survival mechanism.

If our tribe is attacked (stimulus causing fight or flight response) it makes sense for the men to get adrenalized...
  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • Bleed less
  • Hyper focused

 ...and go fight what ever attacked.

It also makes sense for women to keep a cool head and get the children somewhere safe.  If we didn't protect the next generation and give priority of life to women (the means to produce yet another generation) we wouldn't exists as a species today.

If that threat fought through the men, that is the time the adult women of the tribe need to be adrenalized...
  • Stronger
  • Faster
  • Bleed less
  • Hyper focused
By this time any men that survived are thinking more clearly and can plan how to deal with the threat.

When men and women work together there is always one who can think while the other is adrenalized.

Most people reading this outside of Law Enforcement and Military have not experienced this.
However, I am sure they have experienced the same phenomenon in reverse

Men and women working against each other.

Fellas, have you ever gotten in an argument with your special lady friend, got really mad, then a few minutes later wondered why you were ever mad in the first place and assumed the fight was over?

Was the fight over?

Most likely she was just starting to feel the effects of adrenalin.
Fellas, I'm sure at this time you attempted to resolve the issue with logic and reason.

Little did you know she was not in a place to work things out logically she was in a place to fight.
So you continued to fight until the adrenalin spike had passed both of you by then you apologized and every thing was cool.

Clearly that is a broad generalization, but I think a lot of readers will recognize that pattern.

The point is not every adrenalizes the same.

There are some men that adrenalize in the typical female pattern.  There is nothing wrong with that for either gender.  In fact once you recognize the symptoms of emotion you can actually start planning what you are going to do when you are mad.  That is a super power.

There are some women that adrenalize in the typical male pattern.

They are called redheads.

Flag on the play - gimmick infringement.  I straight up stole that joke from Randy King

There is nothing wrong with women adrenalizing like men either.

Know yourself and know the enemy...
Recognize how you adrenalize and find methods of riding the spike that work for you.

I have to remember that this was at least an 18 year old process for me to learn, and a lifetime to refine.

Telling someone (I don't know like maybe your 5 year old daughter) to stop crying, to man up, or to put on their big girl pants is not helpful.  Asking why the fuck are you crying is not helpful.

Teaching someone the means to control their emotions can be helpful.  Maybe not right at that moment they are experiencing them, but over time.

So, in conclusion:

Emotions are just how we label what the chemical cocktail dumped into out bloodstream in response to fight or flight stimulus makes us feel.

Emotions are natural and you can not be devoid of them, so we have to learn to use emotion to our advantage.

Step 1) Recognize the symptoms of  emotions (adrenalization)

  • Sweaty palms
  • Face flush - blushing
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Voice Squeaks
  • Weak knees
  • Heavy limbs
Step 2) Breathe
  • In through your nose, as much as you can fill your chest
  • Hold it for a count or two
  • Let it out slowly through your mouth.
This oxygenates your blood and helps you to think more clearly during a time when you are experiencing diminished mental capacity.

Step 3) Do something that effects the world around you.
  • Focus on one simple thing you have the ability to accomplish
  • Then another
  • Then another until the adrenalin spike has passed

Step 4) Know yourself

  • Learn how you adrenalize
  • Develop coping mechanisms that work for you

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe

Slurp that tear back in your eye