Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hors de Combat

I'm writing the chapter on kansetsu waza (joint-locking techniques) in my book on the science behind fighting techniques (still haven't come up with a title). I quote the following from 'the original Japanophile', Lafcadio Hearn:

Jujutsu .. is an art of self-defence in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone, - without any apparent effort.

Hors de combat, what a wonderful old-world expression.

Hors de combat is a French term that is literally translated as 'outside the fight.' It is also a term that is used in international law where attack is prohibited on a person who is hors de combat. The Geneva Convention provides this description of someone who is hors de combat:

A person is 'hors de combat' if:
(a) he is in the power of an adverse Party;
(b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or
(c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;
provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.

 Isn't that the intent of most fighting arts, including martial arts, for the techniques to put the opponent hors de combat? To render the opponent incapable of continuing their attack or to motivate them to withdraw from their attack?

What a wonderful term - hors de combat.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Human Hands Evolved to Fight

It's interesting. The following article was published on the ABC news website today: Scientists study arms of dead men, suggest hands evolved so males could fistfight over females.

What's interesting is that I reported on that study in 2012-13.

It's good to see that I am ahead of the game :).

What is also interesting is that there are studies being conducted that are useful in explaining practice but they remain hidden in academic journals. My book will introduce readers to some of those studies and hopefully encourage others to access those types of studies and share them with those who are engaged in the practice of those techniques.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

I am a fan of Law & Order SVU. Now I have confirmation that my fandom is positive for me.

A study has been published that found that exposure to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and refuse unwanted sexual activity.

I like the way that they explore different aspects associated with sexual assault. The bring them to light in a way that the general public will pay attention and inadvertently learn from the experience.

One episode of L&OSVU focused on the the 'freeze' response.

'I was raped.'
'Did you say no.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'
'Did you fight back.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'

Detective Oliver Benson explains that 'freezing' is a natural response to a threat. It is not a voluntary action and by understanding this it alleviates the post traumatic stress associated with not actively resisting an attack.

Firstly, the natural response is commonly referred to as freezing, however, when instinctive behaviours are considered it is referred to as 'fright' with 'freeze' being the initial 'stop, look, and listen' response. A response that is linked with anxiety, a response that I am all too familiar with.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen response is also referred to as 'attentive immobility.' The 'freeze'/fright response is technically known as 'tonic immobility.' TI is an involuntary catatonic-like state where the person cannot move or speak. It also features numbing of pain and anger affect.

DOB: 'Don't beat yourself up. Freezing is a natural response to a threat. You can't move, talk to say no, or scream out.'
Victim: 'But I could.'

Now you're buggered.

The writers of the L&OSVU episode was informed by a psychologist who specialises in sexual assault trauma. I want to suggest that a further episode is made where other instinctive behavioural responses to a threat are explored. Submission for example.

We are talking about instinctive, meaning without conscious thought, behaviours that have been selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. The fight-or-flight model only offers two survival behaviours - fight and flight - however, in recent times that limited number of survival behaviours has been challenged.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen, fright/tonic immobility ... faint. Also, submission.

'I didn't say no. I didn't scream. I didn't fight back.' And so the judgements begin. Judgements by first responders, law enforcement, health professionals, judicial system, friends and family, and most destructively of all, by the sexual assault survivor herself leading to post traumatic stress with all its destructive consequences.

I use the term sexual assault survivor deliberately. I'm not one for this politically correct, positive thinking, reinforcing use of terms. A person is a sexual assault survivor because they survived. And how did they survive? Because their inherited survival mechanism kicked in when their survival was threatened.

Here we are talking about emotion, where emotion is thought of as appraisal, subjective feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components. This mechanism was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It is found in our amygdala.

But what put humans on top of the food chain was (a) the intervention of the impulse to act component between motivating subjective feelings and behaviours (not stimulus-response, you don't immediately punch your boss when he pisses you off), and (b) our intellect/neocortex.

However, it is our intellect/neocortex that judges ourselves after we've survive a sexual assault that prolongs the trauma long after the actual attack.

I sometimes wonder if Nature sits back and thinks, 'I really didn't think this whole intellect/neocortex thing through.'

I sometimes wonder if Nature would adopt a similar response as Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man [or woman] who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

 Who are we to judge the manner of someone's survival? Nature did it's job, the person survived. Just say thank you and go on your way.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Women's Self Defence and the Vector

I've written before about Haddon's Matrix.

Haddon's Matrix is a brain storming tool developed by William Haddon to understand, prevent, and control injury.

Haddon cross-tabulated the epidemiological factors (host, vector/vehicle, environment) and the temporal phases (pre-event, event, post-event) to form a 3x3 matrix.

When teaching self-defence of any description, the host is the trainee, the person at risk of injury. Who is the vector that possesses the energy that potentially causes injury? An answer to that question is critical because it determines the strategies, tactics, and techniques that are developed, taught, and trained.

The National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) study shows that one in four women have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Ms Cox said the report also examined the gendered nature of violence.

"Women are most likely to experience violence in the home and they're most likely to experience violence from a partner that they're living with," Ms Cox said.

"Men on the other hand are more likely to experience violence at a place of entertainment and from a stranger."

For women, the vector is an intimate partner. That could be broadened to include family members.

Surely different, strategies, tactics, and techniques need to be devised to address aggression and violence by a familiar rather than what is currently the basis for those tools being an unfamiliar attacker.

That is the challenge for women's self defence courses. Not only in devising effective strategies, tactics, and techniques to be employed against familiar's who are aggressive or violent, but in marketing them and teaching them.

Haddon's Matrix also gets us to think of the environment which also shapes the strategies, tactics, and techniques. Based on the report, the environment would probably be in the home rather than in an alley.

Haddon's Matrix also suggests nine cells where prevention and control interventions. Strategies, tactics, and techniques could be developed for any of those nine cells, before, during, and after an attack. Most strategies, tactics, and techniques are devised for the host-during cell when the host and vector interact. What about the pre and post cells?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smelling Fear

Fear is a major factor in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self-defence, combat sports, law enforcement, military).

Ways and means are developed to counter the effects of fear in ourselves while instilling it in others.

Stress training, such as stress inoculation training, is increasingly being used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment. Stress training is designed to counter the effects of stress on performance. There are three stages to stress training with the first being an informational stage where the trainee is provided with information on stress, stress symptoms, and the effects of stress on performance. The first question is, what is stress?

Hans Selye, the father of stress theory, famously said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know.

With stress training, stress is basically anxiety-fear. Anxiety and fear are related with the latter having an object whereas the former does not. Stress training is actually anxiety-fear training and would be enhanced if the focus was on anxiety-fear and not the ambiguous concept of stress.

Thus, we in the abovementioned activities should study anxiety-fear if we are to manage it in ourselves and others during a violent encounter.

That is a big part of the book that I'm writing about our survival process and how all the methods developed by the above activities are actually interventions in that process.

This article is about a study that suggests that we can smell fear. This should come as no surprise when you understand that emotion involves appraisal, feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components.

A physiological reaction that is unique to a specific emotion is experienced which prepares the body to enact the behaviour that the subjective feeling motivates. The physiological reaction has been described as a 'hormonal cascade' so it makes sense that these fear hormones would be secreted in a person's sweat when sweating from fear.

 There was a behavioural effect of the fearful sweat. It improved the volunteers' awareness and vigilance. They became 43 per cent more accurate in judging if another person's face was neutral or threatening.

 This also comes as no surprise when you look at our fight-or-flight/stress/emotion mechanism from it's evolutionary function perspective - survival. Experiencing a negative emotion such as anxiety, fear, or anger generates a physiological reaction that prepares the body to fight or flee. The effects of this hormonal cascade is increased strength, speed, endurance, and pain tolerance.

It also increases cognitive abilities (above) which is only to be expected given its evolutionary function of promoting and individual's survival.

This leads to an interesting question for survival activities. Do you train for an emotion or not? Most martial arts would suggest they train to fight without an emotion. Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith suggested training for no emotion because emotion clouds judgement. The price you pay for no emotion is no increased, strength, speed, endurance, pain tolerance, and now awareness and vigilance.

If you train for an emotion to gain those benefits, which emotion do you train for? Do you want to eliminate fear entirely or do you want to train for anther emotion, such as anger which many women's self defence courses teach. They are not alone. The beserker tradition has been used across many cultures and continents for centuries to prepare a person for war. They train for rage not anger to promote fight behaviour and to counter fear.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wabi Sabi

There is often a lot of philosophy that is ascribed to Japanese martial arts. I will direct the reader's attention to one more - wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi represents a Japanese world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection ... imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It acknowledges three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

I first came across the concept of wabi sabi when it was explained to me that traditional Japanese pottery deliberately incorporated an imperfection to reflect nature where nothing is perfect.

This idea may be seen in the Borobudur, a Buddhist temple near Jogjakarta I visited with Jan de Jong. At the very top of the temple, under a solid bell is an image of Buddah that is incomplete. The idea is that it is the pinnacle of human/spiritual existence but the image of Buddah could not be completed because we do not know what perfection looks like.


Friday, October 9, 2015

What Are You Teaching And Why?

I haven't posted anything for a while because of various reasons, however, I'm back.

I'm writing a book concerning the 'survival process'. The survival process involves a stimulus, our evolved survival mechanism, and an output that is designed to affect the initiating stimulus. It order to develop this theory I have had to integrate the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion, which, due to our fractured sciences, all look at the same thing but in limited ways and for different purposes which distorts their understanding of the original survival process. Integrating these theories and developing new theory then brings us back to it's core function - survival.

An understanding of our survival process is useful because it allows us to understand (a) our natural responses to a threat or challenge, and (b) all of the methods taught by the martial arts, self-defence, military close combat, and law enforcement methods because they are ALL interventions in the survival process.

What are you teaching and why?

Lets look Donn Draeger's martial arts dichotomy of self protection and self perfection.

The 'practical' approach to martial arts is to teach a person to protect themselves. Nature did not leave us unprotected and defenceless. I can prove that. I can prove it because we are here. If we were unprotected and defenceless, we would not be here. Nature provided us with an extraordinarily sophisticated defence system. What the martial arts are trying to do is to 'improve' on nature by teaching us learned defensive behaviours that are designed to improve on instinctive defensive behaviours.

Teaching tactics and techniques is an analytical approach to the defensive problem. A systems approach, a holistic approach, recognises that there is more to the survival process than behaviour. The behaviour has to be supported or not impeded by the emotion and physiological responses to a threat or challenge that an appraisal produces. What are the martial arts doing concerning the emotion and appraisal responses to a threat or challenge?

The martial arts moved beyond the mundane task of defending ourself to one of perfection ourselves. In this case, the defensive effectiveness of the tactics and techniques is of very little importance. But what does it mean to perfect ourselves through the study and training of the martial arts?

Many often speak of the battle, defeat, conquering, etc of the ego. It all sounds very grand, but what does it mean?

Nature originally provided most organisms with emotion, which in humans arises from the amygdala. Later, nature provided humans with intellect, which arises from the neocortex. Intellect/neocortex enabled humans to climb to the top of the food chain ... but at a price.

Neocortex ('Neo') and amygdala ('Amy') don't always get along. In fact, Neo often wants to control and subjugate Amy. 'Defeat one's own ego'- what that means is defeat one's emotions/defeat Amy. This is the very basis for religious doctrine. Don't give into your base desires, which is driven by Amy.

Don't flee when afraid. Don't strike out in anger.

How do you not give into your base desires? This is where Neo comes in. Neo is used to manage or control the older but more selfish Amy.

Self protection based martial arts need to manage or control emotions, mostly fear and anger. Fear does not support the fight behaviour that martial arts teach and anger may lead to uncontrolled fight behaviour. So, what is your martial art doing to manage or control Amy in order to ensure the tactics and techniques you learn are effective in a life-threatening situation?

Self perfection - control Amy. Defeat Amy. How is your marital arts training designed to defeat Amy?

There is so much to this subject. So much that I'm currently exploring in order to develop theory that will enable us to better understand what we are doing and just as importantly to improve what we are doing.

Buckle up. It's going to be an interesting journey.