Saturday, February 25, 2012

Throwing Techniques and Takedown Techniques

I've decided to write an article for submission to the semi-academic journal, Journal of Asian Martial Arts (JAMA). This is not your usual martial arts magazine, but a periodical for serious academic articles on various aspects of the martial arts.

The article I'm writing concerns the distinction between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. It's in two parts due to the scope of the material. Part 1 presents 'the problem.' There is no definitive distinction between the two types of techniques. There is a lot of opinion, most often not in the martail arts literature which tends to ignore the issue, but there is NO definitive distinction - until now. Part 2 of my series presents the definitive distinction.

Part 1 also addresses the important issue of why bother classifying:
One response that Q did not receive, and one which I continually received when discussing this issue with senior instructors and students of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School was: 'Who cares?'; 'It doesn’t matter'; 'What’s the point in classifying these or any other techniques?'; 'Students are only interested in how to do the technique, they are not interested in how it's classified'; and my personal favourite: 'It's just intellectual masturbation.' This scepticism is common within the martial arts community, and it is not unreasonable. Before we even attempt to address the issue of the distinction between throwing techniques and takedown techniques, we need to address the issue of the usefulness of classification itself.
I'd like to thank the person who provided the 'intellectual masturbation' quote as it is gold.

I present a case, a strongly supported case, that the question more rightly becomes, why not classify:
'Why classify martial arts techniques?': when this question is raised, it is most often raised with the question raiser being unaware of the centrality of this activity to our intellectual processes. Apart from the issue of intellectual laziness, I would also suggest this question is often raised because the questioner may not be able to see the similarities and differences between the different techniques. Hofstadter believes that 'gist extraction, the ability to see to the core of the matter, is the key to analogy making — indeed, to all intelligence' (1995: 75). 'Gist' refers to the essential part of something. Maybe those who question the value of classification of martial arts techniques cannot see the gist or essence of their techniques.
I review a raft of martial arts to see how, or indeed if, they distinguish between throwing techniques. I can count the number of distinctions I have found in the literature on one hand. All of them flawed.

I review books dedicated to the 'throwing and takedown techniques' of this or that martial art which are 'cashing in' on the popularity of these types of techniques generated by the mixed martial arts competitions - fruitlessly. For instance, Thompson's The Throws & Take-downs of Judo does not contain a distinction between the two types of techniques. In fact, all of the techniques described in the book are referred to as throws. Where are the takedowns of judo which Thompson suggests the book covers? Or, is Thompson and others who refer to 'throwing and takedown techniques' creating a new term to refer to all techniques that cause a person to fall to the ground - 'throwing and takedown techniques'? This new term replaces 'throwing techniques' and 'takedown techniques' which are often used interchangeably anyway. This is not a facetious question/suggestion. But this begs the question, why are there these two terms? They must suggest there are two different types of techniques. If so, what is the difference, or technically, the basis of classification? The characteristic that groups the similar and distinguishes the different between throwing techniques and takedown techniques.

Does judo teach takedown techniques? Kano developed a classification of judo techniques. There is no separate class of takedown techniques. This does not mean judo does not teach takedown techniques, it could mean they just do not distinguish them from other techniques. This then raises the questions, in which class of the classification are takedown techniques included? Why are they not a class of their own? The answer to the latter question could be because they do not understand the characteristics that set them apart from other techniques. They do not understand the essence of this class of technique.

Kirby, in Jujitsu: Basic Techniques of The Gentle Art, is one of the very few to attempt to distinguish between the two types of techniques:
Takedown: A technique, hold, lock, etc., designed to bring the attacker down without throwing him; the lock, hold, etc., is maintained throughout the technique and after the attacker is down.
Throw: A technique or hold designed to unbalance an attacker and physically lift him off the ground until he is down.
However, a review of the techniques included in his book reveals techniques that are referred to as throws that are not designed to physically lift the opponent off the ground.

Kirby is nearly there, but not quite. A takedown is defined by exception. A takedown is designed to cause a person to fall to the ground but is not a throw. A throw is designed 'to unbalance an attacker' - so a takedown is not designed to unbalance an attacker? Can you physically lift an opponent off the ground without unbalancing them? I would suggest that Kirby is referring to kuzushi, unbalancing methods that facilitate not only the execution of throwing techniques, but all techniques. You do not need to use kuzushi to execute a throwing (or takedown) technique, but it helps.

A takedown is defined as being maintained throughout the technique and after the attacker is down. Where does this place ushiro kata otoshi (rear shoulder drop) in which an opponent is pulled/pushed (a distinction for another day) to the ground onto their back by their shoulders from behind? The same technique is seen in aikido where it is sometimes refered to as a variation of irimi nage (entering throw). The technique causes the person to fall to the ground. They are not physically lifted off the ground. The technique is not maintained after the opponent is down.

I'm only singling out Kirby because he one of the very few to at least attempt to provide definitions for the two types of techniques. Most simply avoid the issue and use the terms interchangeably and inconsistently.

The picture at the beginning of this blog is of a book dedicated to the throws and takedowns of sambo, judo, jujitsu and submission grappling. Scott, the author, provides a distinction, commonly espoused, based on function. Throws are designed to end the fight while takedowns are techniques used to take the fight to the ground.
This conceptualisation of the difference between the two types of techniques, a not uncommon one at that, is that throws are an end in themselves whereas takedowns are a means to an end. This is a classification, and it is neither right nor wrong. However as Mills suggested, the merit of a classification is dependent upon the purposes it serves. Does this classification facilitate teaching and learning? Does it help in identifying specific takedown techniques and specific throwing techniques? The answer may be reflected in the fact that all of the chapters and all of the techniques included in Scott’s book dedicated to 'throws and takedowns' refer only to throws. Are any of Scott's throws takedowns? Why refer to takedowns if specific techniques are not identified as takedowns? The use of both terms suggests there is a difference, but what is that difference?
To end this blog, I am in the editing stage of this series of articles to be submitted to JAMA. Secondly, I'd appreciate it if any reader could refer me to any literature that makes a distinction between these two types of techniques.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Women's Self Defence/Self Defence/Combat and Injury Science

I received the following comments via email based on a blog on women's self defence (WSD) I posted.

'What a treasure to stumble into your blog!' Thank you. I had to share that comment as it's a lonely task writing, with little encouragement or support.
How can WSD help AFTER the attack? Ideally, of course, she would have been prepared before it happened, but that is not always the case. Obviously there has to be therapy, but I am wondering if it would not be beneficial for anyone to have some sort of 'anger training' afterwards? I wonder what that would look like?
Good question un-named commentor. I said I would answer via a dedicated blog based on that insightful question - here it is.

Followers of my blog would have seen me refer to a relatively new science which studies injuries. Despite the detractors that suggest 'there is nothing new under the sun', I'd counter that with, 'there is always a first time for everything.' It is a relatively new science, albeit applying 'old' science in a new way to understand a particular phenomena - injury.

William Haddon is usually referred to as the father of injury science. He provides a matrix to analyse injury, and thereby a means to avoid or reduce injury.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.
Haddon recognised that injuries have multiple causes and conceptualised the multiple factors involved in injury using the elements of the epidemiological triad: host, agent, and environment. These elements interact to cause injury. The host is the person injured, the agent is necessary to cause the injury, and the environment is the environment in which the host and agent find themselves.

I've discussed in previous posts the phenomena of 'one punch deaths'. The host is the person who is hit (and dies), the agent is the person punching the victim, and the environment is the surface which the victim's head strikes resulting in the death. These three factors interacted to cause this unfortunate tragedy.

James Gibson and Haddon independently identified the agent of injury in the epidemiological model as being physical energy. For our purposes, that means kinetic energy (KE). All those who refer to the concept of momentum to explain martial arts techniques now need to reconcile the concept of momentum with KE. Otherwise, you are simply referring to theoretical concepts that have no practical application. And yes, I am deliberately being provocative.

I am sick to death of the books, articles, blogs, and posts that analyse martial arts techniques in biomechancial terms. So what? If it does not facilitate our understanding and study of those techniques, to paraphrase Attilio Sacripanti, then it is, to quote a black belt from the Jan de Jong Self Defence School, 'intellectual masturbation.' You have to reconcile these theoretical concepts with practical purpose, otherwise, it is intellectual masturbation.

This is where I found myself when attempting to use biomechanics to understand and explain martial arts striking techniques. I couldn't do it with the available explanations and literature. It was all 'wank'. So, I approached the issue from another direction. I asked myself, 'what causes an injury?' Viola, I found injury science. No more theory that didn't apply to practice. Rather, theory explained practice. If facilitated the understanding and study of techniques.

Haddon also introduced the idea of 'negative agents' of injury to account for situations where injuries occur due to the deprivation of necessary elements needed for normal health( e.g. lack of oxygen). He also added 'vehicle' or 'vector' elements to the epidemiological model which are the carriers of the injurious energy.

Haddon took the epidemiological method of studying injury a step further. He divided the injury event into phases and separated the injury from the events leading to and following from the injury event itself. These phases are often referred to as pre-event, event, and post-event, or, pre-injury, injury, and post-injury.

The pre-event phase refers to the period prior to the interaction between host and the agent of injury; the event phase refers to the period when the host and agent of injury interact; and the post-event phase refers to the period after the host and agent of injury have interacted. The epidemiological factors and the temporal phases were cross-tabulated to form a 3 x 3 matrix which is known as the 'Haddon Matrix'.

This is a subject worthy of a book in and of itself; surprisingly enough which I'm writing. Normally, the injury science theory and concepts are used to understand the causes of injury in order to prevent injury. However, uniquely to the activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, these same theories and concepts can be used to understand why and how injuries are inflicted by the techniques taught within those injuries. Injury science is the study of both sides of those activities: avoidance and infliction.

Returning to our un-named commentor's question. Self defence courses, and all instruction associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, should consider the three temporal time frames (and the three members of the epidemiological triad). Before, during, and after the injurious event. Most WSD courses consider the before and during, what about the after? What advice do they provide in terms of limiting the extent of the injury (physical and/or psychological) when the injurious event was unable to be avoided?

This systematic way of thinking about injury is very, very useful. Instructors, how do you demonstrate that you were not negligent if one of your students are injured? By showing that you considered Haddon's Matrix.

Instructors, how do you demonstrate that you were not negligent if one of your students are attacked and injured? By showing that you considered Haddon's Matrix.

Before, during, and after, the injurious event.

As a postscript, Nakayama, in his karate classic Dynamic Karate, analyses stances in terms of these temporal phases. Pre and post execution of a technique, stances should emphasise mobility; during the execution of a technique, stances should emphasise stability.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Gift of Anger

This post was inspired by correspondence with a friend who has emerged from a long term abusive relationship. It is inspired by my application of the knowledge I've gained from researching Beyond Fight-or-Flight to an unrelated real-world experience. This is not to be unexpected because it is often suggested that the lessons learned in studying the martial arts help us live our daily lives in a more functional manner.

Gavin De Becker wrote, The Gift of Fear. It is a '#1 National Bestseller' and the front cover suggests that 'this book can save your life'. 'The Gift of Fear' is followed by: 'And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence.'

What does martial arts training, stress training, stress inoculation training, stress exposure training, combat fear inoculation training, aim to do? To either reduce the intensity of the experience of fear when involved in a violent encounter, or to change that emotion to another emotion conducive to surviving a violent encounter while engaging in that violent encounter. The 'gift of fear' is not considered so much a 'gift' by those involved in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. In fact, Bruce Siddle's Sharpening the Warrior's Edge, whose theories are so often espoused by those ostensibly interested in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, is all about the negative effects of fear on cognition and combat performance.

As per previous posts, women's self defence (WSD) courses often teach turning fear into anger. Why? Because the action tendency of anger is 'fight'. The subjective feeling of anger has a distinctive physiological reaction that prepares the body for the behavioural response of 'fighting'.

I refer back to previous posts and a paper written by James Gilligan titled 'Shame, Guilt, and Violence.' He suggests that, based on his 20+ years experience with inmates in prison and prison hospitals, that shame is at the heart of most violent behaviour. I'd suggest his insights are biased based on his experience, just as Geoff Thompson's insights on self defence are biased based on his door security experience. However, Gilligan's insight that shame is a painful emotion that is emotionally coped with by eliciting the emotion of anger which is then expressed, or coped with, by violence, is indeed insightful.

Shame -> anger -> violence. Recall that I wrote about my analysis of a violent episode of a 7yo girl. Jealousy -> anger -> violence. These are all instinctive reactions. While fight is often associated with fear, I'm more and more of the opinion that fear, when flight is restricted, turns to anger and is expressed as fight: fear -> flight restricted -> anger -> fight. WSD teaches to manipulate our emotions in order to elicit the physiologically charged fight response: fear -> manipulation -> anger -> fight.

Nature does it. WSD does it. The military does it. The 'enemy' are 'bad' and should be 'punished', hurt, and/or destroyed. Dave Grossman writes about how to overcome the instinctive inhibition to kill another human being. One way is to get angry.

DO NOT JUDGE anger, as you should not judge any emotion. Emotions, despite the highjacking of the idea and anger by the religious who suggest it is a 'gift from God', it is an evolved trait that is designed to increase our chances of survival and reproduction. It is designed to be functional, and it obviously has been successful based on our existence here today. But, it can also be dysfunctional given the circumstances in which it is experienced and how it is expressed.

Aristotle, who is often quoted as stating that 'anger is a gift', is quoted as saying:
Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy.
Functional anger - get angry at that f**ker that is trying to rape you. Get angry at that f**ker that is trying to hurt of kill you. Get angry at the enemy that is trying to kill you, and your comrades. Overcome your fear by getting angry. Engage your evolved 'fight response' which includes a physiological response that is designed to prepare your body to fight by getting angry. This is a strategy that utilises evolution's survival mechanism.

Now, lets extend that combat-related training to daily life. Anger is not inherently bad, despite societies characterisation.
Anger can ... power long-range, constructive striving, as in the attempt to show a critical parent that you are competent and diligent rather than incompetent and lazy. And the mounting of plans for long-term revenge may motivate the acquisition of useful skills and generate impressive accomplishments that survive longer than the anger.
That quote is taken from Lazarus and Lazarus', Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, a book written for laymen and which should be essential reading for all those involved in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter.
I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world. Mahatma Gandhi

When we are anxious or scared - get angry. Get angry at being anxious or scared. Get angry at the circumstances that made us angry or scared. Let the anger motivate us to move forward rather than away from things. That is one way emotions have been categorised, as approach or avoidance. Anger is approach; fear and anxiety are avoidance. BUT, you have to be careful. What can make you angry can also make you scared. A WSD course that teaches turning fear into anger suggests thinking about the worst thing this b**tard will do to the women participants and their children. It is designed to elicit the emotion of anger, but, it could also elicit fear, if not extreme fear: 'Oh my God, this guy is going to do this and that to my children.' While Aristotle suggests it is easy to become angry, it may not be that easy. We need to understand anger, but we don't understand it from a functional viewpoint because the focus on anger is on the negative/dysfunctional aspects of anger.

Check out the faces of the tennis players when they are 'geeing' themselves up. Isn't there at least a large degree of anger expressed in their face and body motions. Plutchik talks about blends of primary emotions producing other emotions. For instance, anger and anticipation produces aggression. Major Mawkes, formerly of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment wrote that they train their SAS troopers to have controlled aggression. It could be argued they are manipulating anger to produce elite warriors.

By understanding our emotions, which includes an appraisal, subjective feeling, distinctive physiological reaction, action tendency, and possible behavioural response, we may be able to better prepare a person to survive a violent encounter by utilising rather than fighting against our evolved survival mechanism. By understanding our emotions from a non-judgemental perspective, we might gain a more complete and useful understanding that better prepares us to survive a violent encounter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beserker Warrior Tradition

From previous posts, we have aggression and violence categorised as affective/emotional and instrumental aggression and violence (hereafter referred to as 'AaV'). Affective/emotional AaV are motivated by emotions, and instrumental AaV uses AaV instrumentally for non AaV goals which are not motivated by emotions.

'Fight' is the evolved action tendency of our evolved survival anger emotion. Some suggest that fear can motivate the fight behaviour when its action tendency of 'flight' is frustrated. I'm looking into that, but a biologically based evolutionary argument would suggest that fear turns to anger when we need our body mobilised to fight when we need it most.

The martial arts, law enforcement, and the military tend to strive to instill in their practitioners the capacity for instrumental, emotionless violence. Women's self defence (WSD) often teaches female instructees to change fear into anger if attacked in order to decrease the inhibition to be violent, to elicit the behavioural response of fight, and, unbeknown to them, to avoid the evolved fear-based survival behaviours of tonic immobility and fainting.

Using anger to get people to fight is not restricted to WSD. The American politicians and media encourage anger with respect to whoever they are fighting at the time. The Yugoslavian breakup and its 'ethnic cleansing', the Hutu radio and television broadcasts that preceded the Tutsi genocide, the anger that characterises both sides of the seemingly never-ending Palestinian-Israeli conflict, are all examples of anger being used to get people to fight.

Anger is used to inspire regular troops, but not elite troops. Elite troops are trained for instrumental violence. So, in this way, the fast solution to get people to fight is to use Mother Nature and generate anger. With more time, and training, instrumental violence is the preferred mode of violence for 'warriors'.

However, there is an elite warrior tradition that used, not anger, but 'rage', to devastating effect. They would deliberately inflame their emotions to become 'mad warriors':
Berserks — blustering, mad warriors scorning wounds and death — embody the spirit of reckless attack. ... the berserk warrior tradition spans some three thousand years. (1)
Spediel (1) describes 'berserk warriordom' as a long-lived, cross-cultural phenomenon:
By 1500 B.C., Indo-European speakers held sway from Northern India to Western Europe: east, north, and west of Assyria. Before their dispersal, their ancestors had shared a language, a religion, a heroic poetry, and, what is less well known, some striking warrior styles. Their wolf-warriors, for example, fought with wolf hoods over their head and howled like wolves, while their horse-slashers dove beneath attacking horsemen to stab the steeds. Berserk was one of their characteristic fighting styles, hence one may indeed ask whether Tukulti-Ninurta's mad warriors were not Indo-European berserks.(1)
Spediel refers to the beserker warrior tradition existing from 1300 B.C. to 1300 A.D. He refers to Celtic and Germanic beserks who, 'in the grip of fury ... contorted their faces and bodies in frightening ways.' He refers to the Aztec quachi warriors: 'They were called quaquachictin, which is the name for deranged albeit valiant men in war.' (1) He refers to the 'no-retreat societies of North American Plains Indians' and the Malabar amoks. He also refers to the beserkers of Scandinavia:
Icelandic sagas often tell of berserks as wild, howling fighters, sometimes as high-born champions of kings, sometimes as lowly drifters. One of the last-known berserks, however, was a woman in North America. One day in the eleventh century, the Greenlanders who under Karlsefni had come to settle in Vinland saw a huge host of Skraelings (Indians) bearing down on them. As the Skraelings flung rocks at them from slings, the Greenlanders retreated between boulders to make their stand. The woman Freydis had first stayed indoors, but then went outside to follow the men. When the Skraelings made for her, she snatched the sword of a dead Greenlander, 'pulled out her breasts from under her clothes and slapped the naked sword on them, at which the Skraelings took fright, ran off to their boats and rowed away. Karlsefni's men came up to her, praising her courage.' Insofar as Freydis fought bare-breasted and frightened her foes with unwonted courage, she was a berserk.(1)
WSD - turn fear into anger. Freydis beserker WSD - turn fear into rage, by acting in the Freydis beserker tradition vis-a-vis exposing body parts and the beating thereof. Now that would be a different WSD class.

The beserk tradition is alive and well in modern combat. Shay, in Achilles in Vietnam, writes:
A soldier who routes the enemy single-handedly is often in the grip of a special state of mind, body, and social disconnection at the time of his memorable deeds. Such men, often regarded by their commander's as 'the best', have been honoured as heroes. ... I believe the word beserk is the most precise term available to describe the behaviour that I call to the reader's mind' (3)
Going 'beserk' involves eliciting, inflaming, fury or rage:
To do deeds of berserk daring, one had to be raging mad. Homeric warriors fought best in a powerful rage, and Gaulish warriors could not help falling into the grip of battle madness. Shouting and singing were ways to rouse such rage. Early Greek and Roman warriors screeched like flocks of raucous birds—a mark of manhood. With a song of thunder and wind, the young Marut warriors of the Rig Veda awakened Indra's prowess. Husky Thracian, Celtic, and Germanic war songs, like crashing waves, heartened warriors.(1)
Beserkers would dance: 'Dance would enbolden more' (1). They would snort like animals, beat their chest, bite their shields, discard their armour, contort their faces, shout and sing, brandish their weapons. The Maori haka has been described as initiating a beserker state of mind and body.

Recall from previous posts, emotion is more than just subjective feeling. It involves cognition via appraisal, and a physiological reaction as well, all designed to increase our chances of survival. Spediel describes the physiological effects of fighting with fury:
The psychological and physiological state of fighting frenzy with its rise of adrenaline levels could foster such a belief, for adrenaline 'dilates the airways to improve breathing and narrows blood vessels in the skin and intestine so that an increased flow of blood reaches the muscles, allowing them to cope with the demands of the exercise. ... During surgery, it is injected into tissues to reduce bleeding.' Buoyed by this 'adrenaline rush,' frenzied fighters may well have thought themselves stronger and less vulnerable than others.(1)
Beck sums up the emotion associated with the beserk warrior tradition:
When the murderous rage is brought on, one becomes immune to pain or fear and strength and speed become greatly enhanced. Once this transformation occurs, the beserker lusts only for combat and will fight until either the beserker or his enemy is dead. (2)

1. Speidel, M.P. 2002. Beserks: A history of Indo-European 'Mad Warriors'. Journal of World History, 13:2, 253-290.

2. Beck, A.A. 2008. Blood or mead. Xlibris.

3. Shay, J. 1994. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat trauma and the undoing of character. New York: Scribner.