Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Got No Street Creds

A bit more on the violence thing. Most of you here will assume that when I post such things about the reality guys, I am talking about Rory Miller and Mac and the other hardcore dudes like that. 

You're right. I am. But it's not meant to be derogatory when I offer it.

A couple thoughts to clarify things ...

I like Rory, and I believe what he teaches is valid and valuable. I've reviewed all his books, given them raves. I also believe that what he teaches is mostly geared for, and aimed at, people who are apt to find themselves in scuffles regularly. It's from and for people who deliberately put themselves in harm's way. Soldiers, cops, bouncers, folks who go forward knowing things are about to get active. 

As Rory has been all those things and has not-walked-but-run into the room as the shit hit the fan, I might be excused for thinking that's where he likes to play. I think he gets bored if somebody is not shooting at him -- and barely missing. 

He has specialized knowledge, worth diamonds to people who need it. As he points out, he does violence for money. 

That's a long way from where most of us live. It colors one's world.

We want him on the wall. We need him on the wall. But on one level, I get the sense that he mostly wants to swap stuff with  the other guys on the wall. (You might can add serious martial artists to the teaching pool, in that they are willing to pug in practice, and thus aren't completely against the idea of thumping or sticking somebody, should the need arise. People who could never hurt a fellow human being even in defense of their own lives don't seem to be good candidates for reality fighting.)

When he's talking to guys like me, chair-sitters old enough to be his father, or people who hike a long detour to avoid the mean streets, he has to dial it down. We need to know about it, to be sure. We might need some of it someday, and it'll be worth diamonds if we do. But "might" and "surely will" are two different horses.

Big attitude change from "this might happen" to "when this happens 'cause it's gonna." 

Here's where I keep coming down to it: I can't tell you what it's like to be a soldier, cop, or bouncer, because I've never been one.

I think it's hard for Rory to tell you what it's like to be a civilian, because he's never been one.


Kevin said...

Reminds me of a kid in class who used to carry around his bokken for "protection." Dude ran into a bunch of drunk rednecks after a football game and got into a fight. He thought the encounter vindicated his choice to carry a big stick around. The rest of us thought that he was probably just an incident waiting to happen.

I read and enjoyed Rory's Meditations on Violence. But I too thought that it was not really for the rest of us, so to speak. I'd probably use parts of it during a semester of training, but would preface the lessons with something like "if you are really unlucky and it hits the fan..."

steve-vh said...

Like the classmate many years ago who routinely wore a cup and went to rough bars.
During a "what if" session, he asked the instructor "so what if I'm in "X" bar and ......".
Self defense Teacher's priceless answer "what are you doing in THAT bar?" No more needed to be said.

I do think that maybe Rory has relevant advice for those prone to a less violence prone environment, he just doesn't filter specifically for that audience.

My training partner has the history, yet I notice he works at filtering it and sharing relevant concepts for me as well when we train.

Steve Perry said...

I think Rory is trying to filter it, and a lot of that is in the books and in how he's using feedback from the seminars to restructure them going forward. Part of it is that the seminar attendees are mostly law, military, bouncers, and serious martial artists, and so that creates a certain kind of loop.

What these folks want to hear and what you can tell them is probably different than what a room full of librarians and number crunchers can hear. There are certain givens in the former that you might take for granted.

And part of it seems to be that you are most comfortable when you write what you know.

Knowledge, like water, seeks its own level, and you will draw the students who are ready to hear what you have to say.

Rory said...

Can I have your permission to lift this whole and counterpoint on my blog? Lots of good stuff here and even more good stuff in the gaps, but far too long to handle as comments. It may be a few days before I get to it, but only if it's okay with you.

Steve Perry said...

Rory --

By all means. That's the whole point, to stimulate dialog.

Master Plan said...

Huh. That's interesting. I've been to a few of Rory's seminars and I'd have to disagree with most of this.

Seminar attendees (the ones I've attended) are usually...not bouncers, military, etc. Tho I suppose "serious martial artist" might apply to some of them. But that's a kinda vague term already.

And I've always thought his info was in fact kinda intended for civilians who have NO experience w. violence personally.

So...strange to hear that's your impression of them. Certainly Rory has a strong LEO bias and certainly there have been some LEO\DOC\etc types in his classes I've attended, but honestly I kinda think the opposite of this just based on my experiences at them.

Interesting perspective for sure....interested to see the reply.

Steve Perry said...

I suppose "serious martial artist" might not be an exact term -- kinda like saying "a tall building," but I'm also guessing that most of us would know one when we saw it.

This is not to speak of the efficacy of any particular art vis a vis street use, but merely the mindset of those who do such things regularly.

How many of the folks at the ones you were at had no martial training? Pure civilians? If they were the majority, then I sit corrected. I do think that was Rory's intent, to spread the word beyond the hardcore professionals.

I have read his books, his blog, and chatted with him a time or two, and part of what comes through is that he's much more at home with the hardcore guys. Maybe it's not there, but I hear it when he speaks.

I haven't been to any of the seminars, only gotten the reports from folks I know who have. Everybody agrees they are valuable, and I wasn't knocking that. But the reports I got were from folks I consider "serious martial artists."

Unknown said...

Steve, I have to disagree with you here.

Since you've never attended any of his seminars, I think you do him a disservice by critiquing who he teaches, what he teaches, or how he teaches it.

I have attended several of his seminars, as well as some private lessons and a number of bull sessions over coffee or beer. I don't know if I'm what you call a 'serious martial artist', do a blackbelt and instructor certification, and nine years of training in TKD and silat count for anything? Much more importantly, I'm a 5' 2" middle-class professional woman with a pre-teen child. I don't go looking for trouble, I try to avoid it. To avoid it, I need to know how to recognize it, how to resolve it, how to avoid it. And only if I can't avoid it, then do I need to know how to deal with it.

Most of the students are NOT 'hardcore professionals'. Some are martial arts instructors. Some have some martial arts training. Every one I've been to has had several 'civilians' with no formal training. All are there because they want to understand how what they've learned, or what they've seen on TV, relates to reality.

My opinion is that what Rory is teaching is explicitly NOT aimed at "people who deliberately put themselves into harm's way." Cops, soldiers, bouncers, don't need to hear it - they've either already learned it, or they're in another line of work. What Rory teaches is aimed at people like you and me, for whom most of their concept of violence comes from movies or the dojo. Rory teaches how real violence really works in the real world, and how, in some cases, that is radically different from what martial artists think it is. (As witness the subtitle of his first book: "A comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence.") He teaches how to perceive, understand, and avoid situations that lead to real world violence. And he gives people like you and me some tools to help us apply what we have learned in the dojo, and what our instincts and reflexes provide, that will help us to survive what we've failed to avoid.

That's stuff that real people, people who don't expect to get into violence, don't want to get into violence, do their level best to avoid violence, need to know. Cops and soldiers know it already. It's civilians who need to learn it, because if you don't know how to recognize it, how are you going to avoid it? And if you can't avoid it, then how do you deal with it?

Unknown said...

To say that Rory cannot teach civilians because he's not a civilian is specious. The argument could be made that Guru Plinck, a special forces soldier who has practiced silat since childhood, cannot teach middle-aged mothers or grey-haired authors because he's never been one or the other. Rory is distilling his experience to teach the material that he knows, to people who need to know it, in a way that they can understand it.

heina said...

Great analogy from one of my instructors when I was first learning to teach.

He said, "You may start to explain to a new student about how in a martial siutation there is a tiger and a rabbit...and you may forget that new students often relate better to the rabbit."

Steve Perry said...

Perfectly fine to disagree, Irene -- I'm waiting for Rory's response, and I wouldn't be surprised if he had a different viewpoint.

You and Edwin qualify as serious martial artists, which is part of my point. You say that each of the seminars have had "several" attendees with no training. And what I said was, lump all the pros and serious martial artists together here, and the complete civilians over there, and what's the ratio? If most of the students are civilians, then that's different than if most of them are not. It affects what they are ready to hear, and how they think about the notion of violence, however accurate their notion might be.

You can see that, right? How somebody who comes away from a class bruised and sometimes bloody from being elbowed or whacked with a practice knife might have a different view than somebody who has never seen an incoming punch?

And this affects, or should affect, how the subject is taught. If you are teaching a room full of kids math and it's their first exposure to it, you don't start with algebra and geometry until they can do addition and subtraction. If you do calculus in your sleep, you have to dial down your focus to teach long division.

The guy who doesn't know how to make a fist starts in a different place than one who does.

I didn't offer a disservice, nor was my argument specious -- I didn't say Rory couldn't teach civilians, I said I thought it would difficult for him to put himself in to the mindset of a civilian. And that he is much happier playing with the hardcore guys. He's said as much, so it's not as if I pulled that out of the air.

We've had this discussion before, about advanced teachers and beginners, no need to rehash it, and we'll just have to agree to disagree on that subject.

I think Jon's analogy of rabbits and tigers applies well here -- Rory's a tiger. And if you have been a tiger most of your life, putting yourself into the mindset of a rabbit? At the very least, it might be a challenge.

Most of the students in Guru's class are wolves. Nearly all of us had some kind of martial arts training before we got there, most of us to relatively advanced levels. (The ten of us there at the most recent class all did other art(s) before we got into Sera.)

I'm guessing -- and I haven't heard anybody say anything to the contrary -- that most of Rory's students at these seminars are wolves and not rabbits, and that most of them have some kind of martial training. If I'm wrong, I'll happily apologize. Six out of ten, no training will do it.

I think what Rory offers is something the rabbits need to know. But I also think that it is wasted on rabbits. They aren't going to use it. So at the very least, the folks who show up need to be potential wolves or even tigers.

Steve Perry said...

Another comparison: When I teach a how-to-write class to a bunch of folks I don't know, the first thing I ask for is a show of hands. (The questions depend on the subject I am offering, but some examples):

How many of you have sold short stories to a paying market? How many have finished a novel? Sold one? Sold teleplays or screenplays?

If no hands go up, that skews the lesson one way. If most of them go up, then there's stuff I don't need to cover because they already know it.

So if Rory says, How many of you are cops, soldiers, or bouncers? Consider yourself serious martial artists? Worked in an ER or a morgue? then what he teaches will likely be different if many hands rise versus none.

A surgeon might not know squat about knife-fighting, but she knows what it is like to push a sharp into human flesh and draw blood, so that probably makes her different than somebody who faints at the sight of a needle.

I could be wrong. Wouldn't the first time. But we aren't arguing about the subject matter; it's the pedagogy that I'm prattling on about. How does a tiger teach rabbits to be a wolf or a tiger?

Unknown said...

Rory can address this more articulately than I can. But from my perspective:

"How does a tiger teach rabbits to be a wolf or a tiger?"

He doesn't.

He teaches rabbits how tigers and wolves think and act, so the rabbits can learn how rabbits can avoid or survive them.

Steve Perry said...

Uh huh. And avoidance is at the top of my list, too. If you go where trouble lives, you might well find it.

Of course, if a rabbit faces a wolf or a tiger, he has two real options -- freeze or run. If the predator already sees him, freezing gets him eaten, and Rory has convinced me of that, and his advice on how to break a freeze is great stuff.

Running and dodging is the rabbit's only real hope, and if he can zig when the tiger zags, he's got a chance.
And I expect that's what Rory offers, the chance.

I'm not a betting man, but I'm still pretty sure I wouldn't lose money on the notion there are more wolves in Rory's seminars than rabbits. And what a wolf can do is maybe a bit different than what a rabbit can ...

He's off at a seminar, and when he gets back, will address this.

Master Plan said...

Ah, but....between "serious martial artist" and "pure civilian" what's left?

It's of course a self-selecting audience, they all are.

Same to say great sci-fi is wasted on folks that read nothing but Grisham and Critchton because they won't read sci-fi.

It's true, but...

Similarly the material is scaled to the audience, but if you've got an audience of "serious martial artists" that's probably called for, no?

Steve Perry said...

Absolutely, MP, no question. And it goes to my original point, which is that the rabbits mostly aren't gonna show up. The ones who do are in the process of becoming something other than a rabbit.

And my musings about who the attendess are skewed to the wolf side.

Analogies only go so far. People are not rabbits; a rabbit might change his mind but he's still a rabbit. A person can change his or her mind and body, within limits. If you are a 97-pound weakling and you don't like it, you can reshape yourself into somebody much stronger and better trained.

I'm not disrespecting Rory, and I would be surprised if he thought I was. I've read and given both his published books five-star reviews, here and at the point of sales. I gave him a cover quote for the third and yet unpublished one. The man has been to my house.

Why would I do that if I thought what he had to say was bogus? I merely point out that the folks who most need it are probably those least likely to get it.

I could be wrong.

And as Rory points out, if you accept as graven in stone anything from an expert without demur, something is missing. And my wondering started out with the idea that tigers might have to go some to put themselves in the minds of rabbits.

He needs somebody to push against. Most of the folks who show up at his blog are already in the choir.

Master Plan said...

Oh, was that your original point?

Well, sure, but that's kinda self-definitional again, isn't it?

By rabbits we mean folks that aren't concerned about personal violence, or something?

I think I'm just missing what you're getting at.

This is like saying the folks that most need to strength train for health purposes are also the same folks least likely to do any sort of regular exercise or something.

Is the question how to reach people who don't know or care about these issues?

I didn't think you were disrespecting anybody either, I'm just not clear on what it is you're getting at.

Mostly I just don't think the things you've posited match up well against the material I've seen presented and how it's presented.

What is the disconnect you?

Steve Perry said...

Theoretical audience versus those who actually
Show up. And how folks who offer that what is being taught is primarily aimed at civilians don't seem to think so.

Master Plan said...

Oh, I see.

Think I disagree with your definitions of serious martial artist and also civilian\pure civilian.

Particularly w. regard to the subject in question I think most folks that might qualify as serious martial artists also usually qualify as civilians.

In as much as....I'll go out on a limb and say every single martial arts school I've been to has had more students who do not\have not\likely will not experience violence outside the dojo than the opposite.

I kinda figure when it comes to the violence that if you're not doing it professionally, or at least being exposed to it regularly, then you are a civilian where it's concerned.

That difference between studying and practicing nasty things to do to people....but not actually doing them (and more importantly nobody is actually trying to do them to YOU) and actually doing them, or dealing w. the aftermath, etc.

I think as well that given the violence\martial arts divide it's not entirely true that a pure civilian will have more trouble absorbing the material than a martial arts type. The basics of crime\self-defense are not things I learned in MA classes and the material itself is mostly...non-physical I guess I'd say so I don't think there will arise a particularly significant difference 'tween those groups for some material.

Of course for the physical drills MA types will possess a greater level of comfort....probably, than those who have no training at all.

But then this would a thing where you'd need to see the participants and their skills personally before you can determine their skill\comfort levels and then adapt what you're teaching to how they are learning.

So I think the theoretical audience (folks interested in SD\violence) and the folks that actually show up (same people) seem pretty well matched. In as much as there have been a couple folks I can think of that had no training\etc and seemed to get a lot out of it I think even if you broaden the theoretical scope vs. actual attendees the material works about the same.

In the sense of what's being taught being aimed at civilians, those being folks that are not use of force professionals, and in as much as the majority of attendees are NOT use of force professionals I think the material can be considered aimed primarily at civilians.

I think in some ways MA students, serious or otherwise, are better served by this info. The totally meek\untrained probably don't need to be told to run. Some MA types, particularly tough guys, will have a tendency to fall in to the monkey dance on account of 'knowing' they have skills and feeling they can\must use them.

Rory said...

I've been driving for two days. I need to clean up, perform some minor surgery on myself, get dinner and printout the handout packets for tomorrow.

My next blog post will play in some of the gray areas.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

I would also suggest that people who are looking to attend a seminar or Rory's is already looking for something, that the feel they might need or that they have had an expereience that they need to do something case it happens again. To find Rory you need to go through a lot of other stuff, the stuff that Rory is against or shows where the gaps are. As such it would be unlikely to find to many Rookies there. After all, go on the net and every martial arts styles/school claims to be able to teach real "self-defence" that filters out the majority of "rookies" before they get to the seminar
If people don't knwo what they are looking for it would be hard to find it, or if they don't know that something is out there it harder to find. For those reasons it seems likely to me that rookies won't be there.
I teach Historical European martial arts, almost all the students I teach have been involved in Asian martial arts at some point, they were interested in European Martial arts but could find any so did Asian stuff till they found other stuff. Even if you know what you want, doesn't mean that you are going to be able to find it