Sunday, November 27, 2011

Martial Arts Develops Predators

Has the title of this blog got your attention?

Aggression and violence is often classified in the literature into two broad categories. Meloy provides the following explanation of these two categories with reference to violence. The same explanation applies to aggression.
Affective violence is preceded by high levels of autonomic (sympathetic) arousal, is characterised by the emotions of anger and/or fear, and is a response to a perceived imminent threat. Other researchers refer to affective violence as impulsive, reactive, hostile, emotional or expressive. Its evolutionary basis is self-protection. Predatory violence is not preceded by autonomic arousal, is characterised by the absence of emotion and threat, and is cognitively planned. Other researchers refer to predatory violence as instrumental, premeditated, proactive or cold blooded. Its evolutionary basis is hunting for food.

Meloy developed for forensic practice 10 criteria for distinguishing between affective and predatory violence.

Affective violence: 1. Intense autonomic arousal; 2. Subjective experience of emotion; 3. Reactive and immediate violence; 4. Internal or external perceived threat; 5. Goal is threat reduction; 6. Possible displacement of target; 7. Time-limited behavioural sequence; 8. Preceded by public posturing; 9. Primarily emotional/defensive; and 10. Heightened and diffuse awareness.

Predatory violence: 1. Minimal or absent autonomic arousal; 2. No conscious emotion; 3. Planned or purposeful violence; 4. No imminent perceived threat; 5. Variable goals; 6. No displacement of target; 7. No time limited sequence; 8. Preceded by private ritual; 9. Primarily cognitive/attack; 10. Heightened and focused awareness.

Firstly, what is violence? Violence is variably defined, but can be thought of as physical behaviour that is intended to produce deliberate harm to another. Violence can be thought of as a subset of aggression, which refers to any form of behaviour and not just physical behaviour. Aggression and violence can be defensive and offensive. All the activities that teach fighting behaviours are teaching their trainees to be aggressive and violent. They may not like to think so, and mostly do not describe their activity as such, due to the value-laden nature of these terms. Nonetheless, that is what they are doing.

Secondly, the second characteristic of affective violence is the presence of the subjective experience of emotion. This is why it has also been called emotional violence. What emotion? It is mostly associated with anger, hence why it has also been called angry violence. However, Meloy refers to both anger and/or fear.

Angry aggression and violence in humans is well studied within the aggression and violence disciplines. Fear aggression and violence in humans is not. So what? Fight is fight no matter the subjective feeling, right?

The concept of autonomic specificity has shown that different physiological reactions occur with different emotions (item 1). For instance, blood moves away from the hands with fear but moves to the hands with anger in an evolutionarily designed attempt to assist a person to fight. Fear and anger have different provocations (item 4) and different goals (item 5). Fear is about reducing the threat and getting away; anger is about harming the subject. Blanchard and Blanchard suggest there are different attack patterns associated with fear and anger, which is not unexpected given that 'different emotions produce different behaviours' (item 8). However, they also explain that it is difficult to verify the different attack patterns due to the paucity of direct human studies of physical aggression.

Interestingly, while basically studying the same evolved process in humans, fight-or-flight and stress focus on fear. Those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter who refer to fight-or-flight and stress are therefore focusing on fear-induced physiological and behavioural responses. While the aggression and violence literature tends to ignore fear-induced physiological and behavioural responses, the fight-or-flight and stress based literature tends to ignore anger-induced physiological and behavioural responses. Just as Cannon incorrectly suggested the same physiological response is associated with fear and anger, so the aggression and violence literature incorrectly assume the same physiological response is present with all forms of emotional aggression and violence.

Related to the above, what about positive emotions? Howard refers to four types of aggression and violence which includes positive emotions. Appraisal theory in the stress discipline refers to three types of appraisal eliciting a fight-or-flight/stress response: harm, threat, or challenge. Challenge would be associated with positive emotions. Challenge-appraised fight-or-flight/stress responses are largely unstudied.

Thirdly, what do all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter attempt to instill in their trainees? What is Siddle's model for designing a survival system attempting to do with respect to training warriors? What is stress training, stress inoculation training, and stress exposure training attempting to do when training law enforcement and military personnel for operational experiences? They are all attempting to reduce fear and therefore fear responses. They are mostly not attempting to replace fear with another emotion, but rather for their trainees to enact fight behaviours with no emotion. They are all attempting to train their trainees to enact predatory violence rather than affective/emotional violence.

Do any of the texts associated with these activities refer to predatory aggression or violence, but whatever name? No. Given predatory violence is the goal of these activities, would you not think it advantageous to have some understanding of what the training is attempting to achieve rather than what it is trying to prevent? For instance, Siddle's Sharpening the Warrior's Edge explains fear-induced survival stress and its 'catastrophic' effects on cognition and motor function in detail. Nothing on no-emotion-induced predatory violent effects. It's a little like describing in detail the place you want to leave without any understanding of the place you want to go to.

Lastly, Sun Tzu said if you know yourself and your enemy you'll not be bested in 100 battles; if you know yourself and not your enemy you'll only win 50; and if you know neither you'll lose all. Does an understanding of fear-induced fight assist you in understanding both yourself and your enemy, just yourself, or neither? Given violence can include fear, anger, no emotion, and positive emotions, a fear-induced understanding is but one small part of aggression and violence. A fear-induced understanding is but one of the blind men attempting to explain an elephant by touching just one part of it. My Beyond Fight-of-Flight is an attempt to describe the entire elephant.

PS: I refer to Siddle's work, not to denigrate it, but because it is the authority in the field of applying the theories and concepts of stress to combat performance. It is obvious illustration to use to demonstrate the limited insight that is gained by referring to stress theory.

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