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Photo: Martin Shkreli
One of the recurring issues I have when teaching self-defense is that many people have trouble understanding their inner dialogue. In particular, how it goes off track and leads them into trouble. There are all kinds of reasons for that, I’m not going into it today. Suffice it to say that it’s something you see all around you, every day, in varying degrees. You see it in the asshole who cuts you off in traffic, almost causing you to run over a pedestrian. Or the idiot who bumps you into an elderly lady because him being late for a meeting is just so important and you barely manage to catch her before she falls (and breaks her brittle bones). We’ve all met those guys.
Funny thing though, if you point out how rude they are and how their actions endanger others, they get all self-righteous on you and somehow you’re the unreasonable one and they’re the victim. As in, how dare you even speak to them like that!
Truth be told, sometimes we’re that guy. Be honest now, you’ve sinned in this department just as I have. There’s a difference though: reasonable people eventually realize they are messing up and become ashamed of their own behavior. Then they try to change their ways. Assholes don’t care, they just keep on going with the bad attitude.
The problem with not caring about anything but yourself is first of all, you’ll eventually start believing your own bullshit:
And so on.
The thing these guys don’t understand is that it’s not because people don’t speak back to you or don’t beat the crap out of you for being an egotistical asshole, that they don’t want to. Regular folks don’t always fight over stupid arguments, but they can sure feel like it.
If you scare them a little by turning on your mad monkey vibe, they’ll probably back off. It works, you win. If that happens enough (it often does; being aggressive works very well), then this becomes your reality. You feel it is the natural order of things that you can flip somebody off when they annoy you and never suffer any consequences for it. Why? Well, because the last fifteen times you did it, they cowered and went away. So in your experience, that’s how the world works and you’re absolutely right: in your experience that is certainly the case.
But now we come to a favorite quote of a scientist friend of mine:
The plural of anecdote is not evidence.
Just because that’s how it always turned out for you, doesn’t mean it always will. Just because they didn’t punch you in the face, doesn’t mean they didn’t come close. And you’ll never know why they held back.
Only an idiot thinks everybody else will always restrain themselves like that.
The second problem with being an self-righteous asshole is that because of the dynamics I just described, you eventually get a sense of entitlement about it. It is your right to be an asshole and act as if nobody else matters. Why would you learn to settle matters with a compromise? Why would you even bother seeing things from the other person’s perspective? You’re awesome! Everybody else sucks!
Keep that attitude going long enough and your decision making skills will lead you down a path you can’t return from. It’s just a matter of time before you act self-righteous and obnoxious around somebody who won’t put up with your shit. If you’re lucky, you get out in one piece. If not, well… Here’s a story one of my clients told me a few days ago.
He’s an avid hunter and was out with a friend and his dog, going for game birds. The hunting grounds were close to a river with a path next to it. That path is popular with cyclists and people going for a walk. So they made sure they stopped shooting well before they got to the path. His friend however made the mistake of not putting his dog back on a leash (that’s the law here) and it got in front of a guy on a bike. The guy fell. The friend went over and asked if the guy was alright, said he was sorry, it was his fault and is there anything he could do to help. You can’t really ask for more than somebody owning up to his mistake and offering reparations.
The guy wanted none of it, replied that he should kick the friend’s ass and moved forward. The friend lifted one arm in a defensive posture and the conversation went something like this:
Guy: “Are you scared?”
Friend: “Yes, I am.”
Guy: “You better be.”
After some more huffing and puffing, he got on his bike and left, buzzing my client and missing him by an inch.
Here’s the part he missed:
If you look at it from another point of view, here’s the story again:
A guy gets self-righteous at a man armed with a hunting rifle who offers him a sincere apology for an honest mistake. The guy doesn’t accept the apology and threatens to assault the armed man, while his trained dog is standing next to him along with his self-defense trained friend who’s also carrying a hunting rifle. The main reason they didn’t act was a piece of paper.
Can you see the disconnect with reality?
Threatening two men armed with firearms and a trained dog? In what universe is that a smart move? Probably in the same one where you say “You don’t have the balls to shoot me?” and then eat a bullet?
This is the kind of slippery slope reasoning self-righteous entitlement leads to. I’ve seen it all over the world, in all layers of society. People get used to treating others like crap and just assume there will never be consequences because so far, there haven’t been any. But they fail to understand that it takes two to tango. They refuse to acknowledge how their behavior puts them in a situation that escalates into violence. A situation in which they don’t come out on top, at best.
When you come to blows with somebody, you are part of the equation. For better or worse, your actions brought you there. Hopefully, you just failed to avoid the problem. But there are also those situations in which you are part of the problem. It would be a mistake to think you can get away with that forever.
So don’t be an asshole.
There are 5 lifts that you must keep holy and do.
Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, Bench Press and Clean and Press.
These are the foundation of everything you build upon. Without these
lifts you are just playing games better left to your betters. Do not
forget or neglect pull ups and dips these are like incense to the IRON
and make it happy.
Learn the correct form of each lift, seek out knowledge and turn it
into wisdom. Worry about doing them right, correct fundamentals and
basics will never do you wrong.
Worry more about getting stronger than you do getting bigger.
Progressively add weight to your lifts and do the form correctly. The
stronger you are the bigger you will become. Keep a journal of your
travels and training, to remind you just how far you come. If you add
2.5 pounds per week to your lifts then the journey is going forward.
Don’t set out without a map or a plan of your trip. Decide what you
want and then how to get there. Don’t vary from the plan every other
week. Be constant and diligent about what you have set out to
accomplish. Keep records and journals of your journey, this way you
can look back on the past and see your progress from where you were to
where you are and plan the move forward.
The Alter of Iron is holy keep it that way clean up
after yourself. If you can’t rack them don’t mess with them. Clean off
the equipment when you are through and stay humble. I have seen men
and women that by right of age and experience cleaning dojo mats and
floors as well as re-racking weight because they have the learned to
respect the Iron as well as themselves.
Strength comes from the positive, size and stamina
come from the negative. Work both sides of the lift. Explode up, slow
release or lower. Make every rep count for something. Do not try and
impress others, be slow to talk, don’t brag, prove who you are by the
things you do. Let others watch and learn from you, don’t be led by
bad examples set the example. Don’t be influenced by peer pressure, be
the pressure that sets the example for others to follow. You will
learn more from your negatives and failures than you will ever earn
from your positives and wins. Complacency kills, it kills the spirit,
murders dreams and slaughters goals. Never settle for what others
believe you are capable of. Fish swim, birds fly, haters hate. It is
as simple as that. Do not let the opinions and words of lesser men
condemn or control you. The truth is they are just jealous of you and
hate themselves for not being brave enough to change.
Do not forget to sleep and to eat. Your body needs
both to repair what you have done to it. You cannot run a car on
empty, nor can you drive far on a flat. Don’t try, you will only hurt
yourself and set your journey back days, weeks, and maybe months.
Protein, fats, carbs they are the building block and cement of your
body, you will never make gains without them. Sleep and rest are the
maintenance and repair days, without them you can’t expect to move on.
Your goals will set your dietary needs.
You have to decide what you are wanting to do then plan and execute your plan accordingly. You have access to the whole world of knowledge right at your fingertips, use it to educate yourself in what and what not to do. Know your body
and how it responds to certain things. Listen to it, your body will
tell you what you need. If you are craving milk then you are needing
fat and calcium most likely. If you are craving meat then you need
more protein. If you are tired and sore then you need to rest. Even if
that means taking a week off and kicking back to drink beer and sleep.
Remember you do not make gains in the gym only. You make gains at the
table and when you are asleep. If you plateau and are not gaining,
then stop for a week let yourself heal, and start fresh with a
refreshed body and spirit.
Most life lessons can be found under the IRON, but it
is up to you to look for them. Muscles and Faith are similar, if you
do not use and stress them you will stagnate and grow weak. Lift for
you and not for another. Believe that you can and you will if you move
toward that goal. Do nothing and expect nothing.
For every hour you lift, spend two training your mind,
and two training your spirit. Become BLESSED, (Whole, Complete and
Lacking nothing). Take time to meditate on what and why you are doing
it. Look for your flaws and how to erase or improve them. Never be
satisfied. You will never lift enough, learn enough, love enough.
Always seek to do better. Never be afraid to fail at something,
failure means you are trying and you never improve without trying.
There is only one person that you need to compete against that is the
man in the mirror. Be better today than you were yesterday and then
beat the man you are today, tomorrow. This is a marathon that last a
lifetime, not a sprint for the fastest to arrive at the grave.
You are the master of you destiny in the gym as well
as in life. The amount and effort you put in will return to you.
Little exertion means little rewards. This is a marathon not a sprint.
Take each step one at a time and make it a lifestyle not an enforced
requirement. Every time you go to the gym, the dojo or training hall
you are making progress. Whatever you have decided on you have to put
effort and exertion into. It doesn’t matter if it is being a
weightlifter, a martial artist or a painter. You have to put the work
in to receive and enjoy the benefits.
Pay attention to what a guy — who’s been through the shit — emphasizes first. As such issues seem incredibly small, insignificant or a ‘I know how to do that’ type topic, you’ll often have a reaction of ‘why’s that important?’ The answer is “That’s what kept him alive when bullets were in the air.” Odds are he’s seen people die because they overlooked those details. This, in contrast with someone who is coming from an academic or training only background. Their emphasis tends to be on the obvious — and by extension something that will get you killed if you exclusively focus on it instead of details that support it or can undermine it.
The Hand of SD Expanded
The Palm (Part One)
In my last two part article I introduced the “Hand of Self-Defense.” In the first part I pointed out the disconnect between what happens before, during, and after violence versus what is being ‘taught as self-defense.’ I argued this disconnect will either get you (or your students) hospitalized, dead or in prison. That’s not hyperbole. Entirely too much training overly focuses on one aspect (usually physical) and ignores everything else involved. Which would not be a problem except how often this training is touted as ‘all you need.’
Yeah, about that…
I grew up with violence, violence was my profession, I’ve trained for it, I’ve also studied academic works on the subject, and now I deal with court cases involving violence. Each of these five approaches assesses and understands violence in their own unique ways. More importantly, they prioritize different aspects — for good reasons. But these reasons often aren’t apparent until you view the subject from that standpoint. This varied experience gives me perspectives on violence than most so-called ‘self-defense instructors’ do not have. Basically, I look at a much bigger picture. A picture of overlapping filters and extended depth of field. I’ve seen problems about self-defense that most people don’t know exist until they find themselves too far in to back out.
That’s why I came up with the Hand. Each of the fingers is an important element (or group of topics) that seriously influence … well everything. The hand can help you with if violence even occurs. It helps you tell what is happening. What degree of force you need. How to scale force at the time and afterwards, how to communicate that it was self-defense. How not get nailed by the common pitfalls of dealing with the cops, our legal system and of course — for real fun and games — how not to get killed if the guy comes back seeking vengeance. These are realities of violence that most instructors not only don’t touch upon, but often don’t even know exist. Or worse, they heard of the subjects but have dismissed them as trivial and/or a ‘well that won’t happen.’
Which brings us to the second part of the original “Hand of SD” article. There I address things that have to be in one’s training for self-defense. Otherwise, it’s NOT self-defense training. (That’s why understanding the disconnect is important.) Even if what’s being taught is somehow connected, it’s often a single aspect; it’s not the whole of the subject of self-defense. But there’s something else. In violence things can — and do — go wrong. The self-defense hand introduces you to where this can happen and the skills necessary to be able to manage where things commonly go wrong and when they do. It is a map, a check list, and a litmus test of your training, knowledge and skills. It’s to see if your training prepares you to handle how things actually happen and go wrong.
So fast recap. Hold up your hand.
In the original article I introduced the Palm as: There is no one-size-fits-all or one-stop-shopping when it comes to self-defense training. The needs of an older woman are different than that of a young man who is being bullied at school.
You know what? What I teach police SWAT teams is completely different than what I teach soccer moms. What I teach nurses (who often walk into dark parking lots late at night), social workers and real estate agents is different than office workers. What I teach bouncers is different than what I teach business travelers. What I teach regular police officers is different than what I teach military personnel. Why? Because each group has different rules of engagement, different problems, different responsibilities and most of all are facing completely different situations.
But more than that, individuals from each group have completely different resources, backgrounds, attitudes, abilities, experiences, physical capabilities, and most of all, limits.
What I just said is: You have both external and internal factors that influence if ‘the’ training will work. Although I speak of the Palm, think of those two as the back of the hand (external) and the palm (internal). In many ways external and internal issues are horribly intertwined. At the same time they are still separate issues. Issues that if you don’t look at individually the results become as clear as mud. In fact, a very good argument can be made that the disconnect of training has its roots in not looking at theses issues as if they were all one in the same.
Looking at this part of the hand makes you consider if the training is appropriate. Appropriate for not just different needs, different circumstances, different rules of engagement, different environments, but most importantly appropriate for the students themselves. What they are or not capable of — and often won’t be, regardless any amount of training.
What works for one individual is not only no, but a hell no for another. For example: Teaching a five foot one woman muay Thai so she can fight against a fit and aggressive 250 pound man is setting her up to not just fail, but literally to get run over and squished. This is not a question of ‘does muay Thai work?’ (External.) It’s you don’t teach a smaller, weaker woman (internal) to fight a bigger person using a sports fighting system. When it comes to ‘self-defense,’ you teach her how to injure and escape from a bigger attacker.
Why? Because, especially in sports fighting ‘styles,’ size matters. Let me repeat that in case you missed it, SIZE MATTERS! It especially matters when everyone is using the same techniques (which is the essence of sports fighting). “Size matters” is why — even among male fighters — there’s weight divisions. (There’s a story out there about a famous female kickboxing champ who hauled off and kicked a guy on the side of the road. He grunted and said, “Good one. You better leave.”) What also matters in sports fighting systems is physical fitness. Teaching women a young man’s game — that most of its effectiveness comes from good physical condition and strength — is ignoring the fact most people can’t run a mile, much less fight effectively for three minutes. It would take months of training to get to that bare minimum physical standard.
But more than that, you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing women they can go skull-to-skull with a man. You may think you can teach someone how — and there are women who will believe it — but most women won’t trust that idea. If they don’t buy it in training, they certainly won’t use it in a situation. (Stop and think about this. If sports fighting is where you get your physical techniques for your Women’s Self-Defense class, A) You’re shooting your credibility in the foot and B) That’s probably a contributing factor as to why such classes are hard to fill up.) You may think these limits can be overcome with training, but does the student? This especially with the amount of time and effort the person is willing to invest.
Changing tracks for a second. What are the actual dangers and circumstances the people in the class are facing? Given their lifestyle choices, what dangers are real? Then the big question: Is the information you’re providing germane to those circumstances?
A young middle class male in high school might have to ‘fight’ a bully. But are those the same problems a young man from a gang infested inner city school will face? Will teaching both of those teens the same fighting style be appropriate? I ask because in the inner city, weapons and superior numbers are far more common than suburbia.
What does a young woman going off to college need to know as opposed to a married mother of two teens? Will the circumstances each face be the same? Probably not — unless ‘mom’ is into frat parties and binge drinking. What does a business traveler — of either sex –need to know to travel safely through different cities or even countries? Starting with the ‘basics’ of hotel bars and how not to get hit on while there. Does a homeowner who has a gun for home defense need the same training as a SWAT team? Definitely not. Starting with the fact that a home owner is under no obligation to search/storm the property. I tell you this so you can see how much situations dictate the nature of the problem, the needs and what is appropriate training.
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them — Albert Einstein
You should be reading this after watching the short video of the clash between Chelsea (the Headhunters) and Cardiff (the Soul Crew) hooligans on the Kings Road, London in 2010. This article seeks to identify what actually happens when two football mobs actually meet. However, this is not an academic paper, it is a recollection based analysis from someone who did this shit, me.
Loved it, lived for it and got as high as a kite from getting stuck into the fighting. Saturday afternoon and the occasional Tuesday night were the highlights of my week during the football season. The three types of participants I identify from the video are useful, in my opinion as a model, nothing more, they allow us to break down the mob into workable types. These are the shitters, nearly men and inwegos (as in we go).
This was the career path I followed. I remember as a boy my grandad took me to watch Sheffield Wednesday every so often ( now known as child abuse), we sat in the South Stand near to the Spion Kop, and Kop as we called it, named after the tragic defence of said hilltop by the British Army in the Boer War. Needless to say this was home turf, to be defended, with no segregation gangs from opposing clubs would get onto the Kop and claim it, if the away fans got control it was called taking it, it was purely tribal behaviours, invading the others territory coming and letting everyone know, this is the group monkey dance par excellence involving hundreds and often thousands of participants on each side. It can be achieved by a walk on that is uncontested, infiltration and attacking from within or just full frontal attack, do not underestimate the ferocity sometimes involved in this kind of action. As a boy I saw the crowd surges and the fists and boots fly and was hypnotised.
It was scary, bodies flew everywhere, people got crushed against barriers, chasms opened up between fighting groups and closed again as more fists flew, it was more exciting than the football for sure, especially to an impressionable nine year old. Therein lies the hook that drew many a boy towards the action.
So fast forward a three years and I began going to watch Sheffield United with my friends, just a group of 12 year old unsupervised boys, what could go wrong, kids off to the football on their own, it took a lot of persuasion to get me there but on that first visit, with a 35,000+ attendance, United secured promotion, cue pitch invasions, celebrations and I became a Blade.
So the next season wearing our scarves it was every home match playing all the big teams in English Football and the big teams brought big mobs sometimes 10,000 plus and there were big clashes in and around the ground especially on the Kop as visiting fans tried to take it, from the opposite end of the ground, yes we had had to cut a deal with our parents and curiously they deemed us being on the visitors and safer, we watched the fighting from the far end of the pitch.
Well before this becomes a biography let me tell you a year or so in and we started to go on the Kop,we were drawn there but near the front, not the back where the hard stuff happened and the big boys and men rolled in from the pub to compete for the sacred territory. But, we gradually found reasons to get nearer, we learned all the songs and chants designed to intimidate/emasculate the enemy complete with all the exciting swear words, (my first arrest of many to come was at 15 years old for threatening behaviour, I received a Police Caution), we learned to let the monkey loose, we hated them, they hated us, this was fucking war. The fact that they were exactly the same as us but from 20 or whatever miles up the road was lost on us, we had our colours, they had theirs, we had territory to hold they wanted to take, pride was at stake, honour even.
So we eventually began to tag along with the main Kop crowd as it left the ground at the end and participated in the clashes with opposing mob. Running them, them running us, avoiding the police, throwing the odd missile from the back, we were too small and scared to be in the action but we were watching, learning, feeling what it was like, what it would be like. Of course we would be the first to run if the other mob broke through our front, that is why I now name this group the shitters. They want to wear the clothes, talk the talk, walk the walk, damage property, swell the ranks but they are low level participants of little use when the fighting started. In fact they often get in the way.
You may think I am othering the shitters but I am not, they all have their roles to play when big groups clash but they are of no use to a small determined firm. They are like the peasants bulking up the Anglo Saxon Fyrd defending their Shire, bulking up the mob is nothing new. We can use the three types to describe a career path in football hooliganism, most start as shitters, I did, of course they do not see themselves as shitters but as aspiring hooligans.
Shitting it is a phrase we used of those afraid to do something, especially fighting. It is a derogatory term but shitters had their uses. This was what I call the great wave phase of English football hooliganism, The big mob ruled, this was not about tight, well organised firms of committed individuals, but hordes. The bigger the visiting horde that descended the more likely the trouble. All the psychological and sociological analysis I have read largely missed the mark, this was young men let loose on a Saturday, uniting in numbers and as such gaining the power to do what they liked and if what they wanted to do was to rampage down the high street of another town chanting and fighting any opposition they would do it, we did it, I did it, it was incredibly exhilarating especially when we add in alcohol. Raw power in the hands of those who do not know how to handle it.
To be fair we could be talking Anglo Saxon clashes with the Vikings here the analogy is so clear and whilst victory at the shieldwall needed vicious brave warriors, often pissed out of their heads, to wield the axes and swords at the front, they also needed the weight of as many others at their backs to stop the shieldwall collapsing and to push back the enemy shieldwall.
I am not romanticising football thuggery, only drawing a parallel that our so called modern brains function to long ago programmed behavioural patterns, much of what we know of conflict communications is played out before our eyes in the Chelsea Cardiff clip. It is better to be a shitter in the mob than to not be in the mob, by becoming a shitter you may one day become an inwego, after you learn the trade. So we began our climb to becoming nearly men, we got closer and closer to the action, we learned to monkey dance better and better, for us it was about putting on the big display, becoming the big I am and as you get closer and closer the more you learned. The socialisation of us as football hooligans progressed and we were more than willing participants.
We learned the monkey dance and that was our role, to make the group monkey dance as big as possible, the shitters participation rarely extends beyond threat display unless their mob massively outnumbers the opposition. Looking hard, big and making lots of noise, gesturing to the enemy and throwing things is their main preoccupation.
From there the next step is when they start to actually start to move towards the action instead of shitting it at the back. Getting nearer the action is riskier, they are getting closer to getting involved in the actual contact, that is why I call these people the nearly men. It is like a moth fluttering around a flame, drawn towards the danger but just managing to keep out of it. By now you may want to go watch the video again as you will see what I mean. Picking out the shitters and the nearly men is not hard.
I have no ratios but we can picture it as a pyramid with a few hundred shitters, a few dozen nearly men and a small hardcore inwegos. As I said this is a model, it does not intend to deal with specifics or scale, I am trying to paint a picture for you, from there we can look at different aspects of hooligan behaviour later.
Now for the nearly men, for the inwegos to have around them what look like inwegoss helps them intimidate those they are facing up to, dopplegangers have there uses. These are not the peasants in their sackcloth holding a scythe, but something resembling an armoured fighter, possibly holding a blunt sword but hard to tell until engaged in the fight. These guys will be wearing the right clothes, they have the monkey dance off to a tee and look the real deal, they nearly are. The nearly men will fight if pushed, usually if they get caught but it will be fighting on the retreat, to create an escape when the lizard brain takes over, but they may equally run, the pace of their transition from shitter to inwego and the situation will combine to trigger whatever response.
I remember one occasion when we overran the police protecting several hundred away fans and they backed rapidly into a garage forecourt with no exits, as the roar went up from us they simply huddled in a mass and tried to cover up, no fighters, all front, shitters and nearly men, we simply steamed in and battered them until the police regrouped and forced us off using horses, dogs and truncheons. Happy days!
The nearly men are/were mostly late teen early adults but this is a broad generalisation, I was drifting in and out of the actual fighting from age 15 (remember I also got my first police caution at this age too and it made me a celebrity at school), a nearly man or nearly boy even. There is no fixed age but there is a right of passage as you move from each stage, some get here and never move on so the nearly man can be a lifelong thing. In the clip we can see middle aged nearly men, possibly ex inwegos who have come back from retirement for the big occasion doing their duty to club and firm, dancing in and around the action. The thing is for me and my friends it was a stepping stone to becoming inwegos.
In the Chelsea Cardiff encounter you see a lot of people getting very close to those exchanging punches without actually getting contact themselves, this involves a lot of situational awareness in a chaotic situation, the nearly men fill the gap between the shitters and the inwegos. Allowing the shitters to stay close enough to be a threat but still with enough space to run if the opposition breaks through. Shitters are in full on monkey brain, if the situation goes against those in front then their lizard brain will kick in and they will run, they will, shit it, shed their tail and run like hell until a safe distance then turn around and monkey dance again to prevent them being humiliated.
So we turn to the inwegos, there is plenty of monkey behaviour there too, remember the learned/innate behaviour practised for years before. In my first draft I called them fighters but felt uneasy with that term right from the start, this is not fighting as I understand it, not full on toe to toe stuff anyway, what we see in the video are swift attacks, often from out of view, from behind and the side, taking advantage of the chaos, taking advantage of being able to hit and move to avoid being hit themselves. These guys see an opportunity and ‘in we go’, but just as quickly it’s ‘out we come’.
Now it takes some pluck to go in and have a go, it’s as exciting as hell and it sure means that these guys milk the self esteem they create by moving to the front and engaging, by becoming an inwego you show that you are a risk taker prepared to trade blows for the group, the reputations won here are priceless to the participants and stay with you for years. I remember my dad telling me that a friend of his, his own age, having witnessed an evenly matched brawl between 40 or so Sheffield Wednesday fans and ourselves, that if my dad had seen me in action he would have been proud of me. This was despite me being a 34 year old college lecturer at the time, one of the old boys coming out of retirement to meet the old enemy.
The inwegos are out front, their monkey dance is subtly different to the nearly men, the latter need to be seen to look hard and up for it, the former are and try to mask this, an effective monkey dance will drive back an opponent, for the nearly man this is desirable for the inwego it is not, distance equals comfort for the nearly men but denies the opportunity to raid for the inwego.
Violence here is intimate, it is up close and guess what, the inwegos on the other side hit back too, going in has risks and rewards, if you fear humiliation you will not go in and the monkey fears this more than anything, that is the shitters for definite and the nearly men for sure, for the inwegos it is a gamble, a managed risk in an unpredictable environment. Status in these groups depends on performance in the clash, in the fight, I was a sucker for this, I craved status and I earned it, crashing in first. As my career developed I liked infiltrating their mob as it went away from the ground and attacking from within them, this caused untold mayhem as it was unexpected, one minute you are chanting their team’s name then the next you are punching anything that moves in a target rich environment, we had a whole box of tactics and trick but they are for another article. The thing to remember is that the inwegos have mastered the monkey dancing and the singing, the threatening and the gesturing, like any addict that is no longer enough, a harder drug is required.
That is being in the fight, we were a very tight group as we got older having shed all the extras we simply gathered the fighters, honed down the numbers and went straight to the business, but football violence changes and stays the same, it’s a conundrum that baffles the academics. For the inwego it is not just getting stuck in, although that is the best part, it is being seen to get stuck in, this is what grows a reputation and that needs to be created and recreated over time.
Some inwegos come and go, some are a flash in the pan, sometimes for big clashes like this one all the old boys come back for a pop, tribal loyalties are strong. In this group are a rarer breed the fighters, the ones who can suppress the monkey emotions and function in chaos, it could be that they function in that rare human lizard sphere Rory mentions in ConCom, I can only guess, I remember intense fights with good numbers of committed fighters on both sides in slow motion detail. Mostly I remember the latter days when the big clash was seen as a waste of time, we stripped down the numbers, ditched those who wanted to dance, this was by invite only, this was for those who wanted to fight. There was no time for display, that attracted the wrong kind of attention, police attention. This was hunting, seeking out the enemy and steaming in.
The thing is my past clouds my interpretation, I make no secret of that, and I said at the beginning this was not an academic paper but a recollection based analysis of one event. My past colours how I see this clash, I have been in many such as this, I thrived on being in there exchanging the punches and kicks, it is what I did for fun. But trying to see what is happening using the lizard, monkey, human brain model as a lens helps us to break down the ritualised behaviours nicely in my opinion. This whole scene of carnage to the comfortable middle class in England, who saw us as the devil’s instruments, or viewed with total miscomprehension from behind the picket fences of middle America, was well established around the world by the time of this clash.
The English disease has spread abroad and to other sports because people imitate, the contagion has spread. More than this it is because the behaviours we see in this clip are underpinned by the very evolution of the human brain, its architecture and the environments and socio-economic conditions it has evolved through. Violence is the oldest form of communication, the primal manifestations we see in the clash Between Chelsea and Cardiff allow us to play the anthropologist and to see the monkeys dance played out in all its glory by the group as a whole and by different subgroups within it.
One last thing. For now I have focused on the individual types in the whole as I see them, so go back and watch it again, see how clearly you can pick them out, share it with your peers, your students and also look for one more thing, the effectiveness of the group monkey dance, because none of these individuals is truly that in this encounter, they become a part of the whole, absorbed into the whole emotional monkey atmosphere because once the monkey appears he infects all those around until they are all infecting one another, then it’s time to do business and thresholds get crossed.
The vast majority of those in this example are amateurs, shitters, nearly men and inwegos. Next month I will introduce you to the businessmen, a different deal altogether.
Russian Spetsnaz: “I request an airstrike to my location!”
Who can defeat a suicider? When you fight you usually don’t plan a heroic death, you think about a win, right? Even if you are a counter-terroristic squad member you think about a successful completion of an operation, and about your family who waits for you at home. You want to stay healthy and alive, and death is not a desirable variant. But when you are a suicider, then you don’t care whether your body will be damaged or destroyed. You can let your enemy to break your hand, but to bite his throat. Or even let him to stab you with a knife thus coming closer to his throat again. Does that mean these suicidal terrorists are undefeatable?
No. For example, Alexey Prokhorenko, died a hero after requesting airstrikes to his own location, when he was surrounded by terrorists in Syria. This incident was widely discussed by media. The Russian officer claimed to be a member of famous Russian Spetsnaz (Elite Special Forces). Was that deed a unique thing? Or maybe a result of Spetsnaz training? Let’s get deeper into the Russian history and Russian Elite Forces training.
Officially Russian Spetsnaz was established in 1950 and was included into the mysterious GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff), but technically the special squads of scouts and raiders existed long before that date. They could have different names, but their structure and training were similar (and the differences were dictated by the tasks). Say, Elite Forced of the Soviet VDV (Airborne Forces) would prepare a ground for landing by “cleaning” it, when the GRU Spetsnaz would make a raid or do reconnaissance.
Anyway the main structure of the training was the same (besides experimental groups). It based on the common army NFP (Physical Training Regulation), but any commander could also include his own practices and techniques, sometimes extreme. One of such methods will be discussed in this article.
Main parameters of the NFP-2016:
– Individual Training
– Gymnastics and Acrobatics
– Hand-to-hand Fighting
– Obstacle Zone (Conditioning Course)
– Running and Athletics
– Military Applied Swimming
– Sports Games
The NFP uses point rating system depending on age and other candidate parameters. However we can give an approximate average acceptance test as an example of specific figures.
All exercises are performed without a pause.
Mostly education consisted of two things: running and shooting. As the Soviet Army saying goes, You must shoot like a cowboy and run like his horse. Of course the soldiers would run with full backpacks. The hand-to-hand fighting was not a main part of the training program. Still the program was so packed that those people were actually undefeatable later in their street conflicts, and some of those masters skills seemed to be fantastic until you saw with your own eyes.
No wonder – only a gifted person with a sports background could be called to Spetsnaz. Plus it should be a smart, intelligent person. Somebody who is a good boxer and a chess player at the same time. Have you met many of them in your life? We also should mention that training supposed to strengthen the morale spirit of soldiers which is the core, the main thing to win.
So, stamina was first and most of these guys didn’t look like Schwarzenegger (or even Rambo). Especially if such a person was also a spy – a regular man needed, who was not easy to notice in a crowd, who didn’t look suspicious. Tall guys were usually selected to “storm troopers” squads when you didn’t need to hide. And a “Conan the Barbarian” cannot run for hours with munitions and weapons on his back. However, it depended on a situation. As one of the Spetsnaz leaders said, The main weapons of Spetsnaz are intelligence and will. So if you would see some of the legendary Russian Elite Forces members on a street you would never recognize them. They don’t want to look like commandoes, they want to be considered real professionals – and they are.
One of the training main parts is obstacle zone (conditioning course). We all know how usual military obstacle zones look like (standard one is of 200 meters long according to the NFP). Usually a prepared soldier can go through it in seconds (especially if attractive girls from magazines make pictures of him). Unlike it the Spetsnaz obstacle zones are longer and more difficult. The distance can be much longer than a kilometer and it takes more than an hour to go through it. Remember, we talk about prepared people who train every day, so a civilian person would finish it in a day or more (if would).
One of the GRU obstacle zone’s length was more 15 kilometers with depressions, elevations, wooded areas (with windbreak), water areas and a lot of engineering structures. Two battalions of soldiers (approx. 700 men) and students of the officers school (approx. 50 men) could train there by weeks without even noticing each other.
Now we will know about an extreme training method which was not an common obligatory thing (it depended on a commander again):
– Naked soldier enters the little room where a rat is waiting for him. A rat driven into a corner is a dangerous thing. A soldier should kill it with bare hands.
– A soldier should eat a frog alive.
– A soldier is put into a coffin with common water snakes (they are not poisonous) for a couple of hours
– A soldier is throttled with a plastic bag after a sparring – of course not to death.
The main education principle is simple as you can see – training should be at least as hard as real situation (of preferably even harder).
Is that the reason for Russian soldiers to die non captured, to direct airstrikes to their own locations? No. The ability to die at war is the common and popular Russian tradition which is described in many films and books. It was used for centuries, and is used nowadays. As the saying goes, Russians don’t give up. Unlike terrorists Russians want to live, but a heroic death (self-sacrifice) is very honored in the Russian tradition. It is difficult to say when this tradition appeared, but it is ancient enough. Maybe it appeared simultaneously with Russia itself. Maybe this is the part of the Orthodox Tradition: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), King James Bible.
VV MVD (Interior Ministry Troops) – their main tasks are riots repression, hostage release and criminals detention.
VDV (Airborne Forces) – their main tasks are air assault, liquidation of enemies, gaining a beachhead
The soldiers in these films are not from Spetsnaz, still you can learn something about the Soviet training.
We can set our triggers in two broad categories – proactive and reactive. Proactive is when we still have initiative. Reactive is when the aggressor has initiative. Confirmation Triggers fall into a proactive sphere. Opportunity Triggers and Necessity Triggers fall into a reactive sphere. When we are proactive we are acting. When we are reactive we are reacting. Meaning, when I notice a potential threat, I can flag him, decide or select certain triggers, and when I see them I act. Reactive means I have missed that evaluation process and I am now left responding to the confirmed threat’s initiative.
For example. Proactive is when I flag a pair of potential muggers before they attack. I can now set “if one of them pulls a knife I will do this” or “if one of them demands something from me” as a signal, trigger and response. A Confirmation Trigger was used. If I miss flagging the potential muggers and they jump me with a knife against my throat I have to kick into reactive mode. I can still run an IF THEN clause but now I will need to set Opportunity or Necessity Triggers. In terms of Opportunity it can be something like “if knife guy looks away I will do this.” In terms of Necessity it can be something like “if his buddy says kill him then I will do this.”
This breakdown of Confirmation, Opportunity and Necessity Triggers serves as a great training tool. It helps the learner to understand different tactics as well as wisdom in terms of when to deploy certain types of techniques. It also serves as an easy way to categorize the triggers into more memorable subsets.
Negative Influence Factors
All though there are others I am going to list the main negative influence factors in executing this Just Right Response.
1. Emotional State
If I can use an analogy that is still very active in our industry, this question has to do with whether the defender is functioning with his human (cognitive), monkey (emotional) or lizard (survival) brain. The decision making processes and goals differ in all three of these states. They form a linear line with human on the one side and lizard on the other. By implication, the more you go to the one side the less in control the other side is. Your emotional state thus influences your ability to make certain types of decisions.
The primary emotions we deal with in confrontations are fear and indignation or anger. The more scared or angry you get the more difficult it becomes to make good decisions. The problem with this is that the moment you become emotionally led you don’t always notice it. You think you are functioning normally but seldomly are. I’m not speaking about becoming or trying to be completely unemotional. It is normal, healthy, and can be beneficial for you to experience certain emotional and physiological changes under these conditions – I am talking about the fine line where you move from experiencing them to becoming led by them.
Going back to our thinking on a Just Right Response is becomes glaringly obvious that your emotional state can seriously influence this. If the emotions of fear or anger take over you might respond in any one of these: Too fast, too late, with too much force or with too little. Remember you observe and interpret data differently when emotional, you orient yourself differently to incoming data as well, so any decision you make is based on possibly faulty data. If your freeze response kicks in you might respond too late and with no force. If your fight response kicks in you possibly respond too fast and with too much force. The idea is to try and remain in control until it’s necessary or wise not to do so any more.
2. Accurate Mental Models
All of us store models of what threat signals look like in our subconscious. Your foundational models are based on simplistic data sets – an object travelling at your head really fast or a sudden shadow moving into your line of sight or a really loud bang. The reality however is that criminal attacks, depending on the type of criminal or attack, can send out very complex or minute signals that they are a threat. Also, the effective criminal works hard at actually hiding these already complex or minute signals. Understanding what valid threat signals LOOK or SOUND or FEEL or SMELL like is key to setting up a Just Right Response.
This is difficult without much experience and/or good training. The problem with much experience is the obvious and inherent dangers involved. Yes, we can learn first hand about the signals, the twitch we missed, the change in face colouration we missed, the slight shift in stance we missed, the hand ducking behind the back or into a pocket that we missed, the momentary change in his eyes and where they’re focusing, we can learn from these but we’re not guaranteed to walk away in one piece.
The problem with training is twofold. First of all it’s just whether you are training with these signals integrated or not in the first place – and whether you are being encouraged to explore, set and practice your triggers. Second of all it’s whether it’s being done in a realistic manner. Remember, you won’t just be dealing with the physical signals, but also with things like emotional state, presence, projection of power and intimidation, all of these change your brain’s ability to deal with the situation effectively as it provides more incoming data albeit at a more subconscious level.
3. Data Overload
Data overload can be approached from two different angles – time constraints and volume. Both of them create an overload effect. The first creates it due to the fact that your brain does not have enough time to deal with all of the incoming signals. The second creates it due to pure volume. There is simply too much happening at once for your brain to deal with it effectively.
Data overload is one of the key motivators for hammering effective situational awareness and range skills into our students. If you are able to pick up the development of a situation in a timely manner then you will have, by definition, more time to evaluate the incoming signals accurately. If you ingrain the simple, but not always so easy, habit of maintaining certain ranges from potential threats you immediately buffer your abilities substantially. The shorter the range the less time you have to evaluate and make decisions. The shorter the range the less you can see and less data you available to accurately evaluate and make decisions.
Signal and Trigger Discussions
Most of self defense training is geared towards the response side of this process. Consider stopping your class every now and again asking them about signals – and then about their individual triggers. Keep it short, maybe a minute or two. This will also help you pick up whether they actually have a good knowledge base of signals and a good idea of what would be good triggers for them as individuals.
Pick a Number
When doing striking combinations or pad work let the students pick a number between one and five. Let them pull of the combo when they hear that number. Then with variations in tempo, rhythm and volume count from one to five. The idea is that they only strike when they hear their number – and do so fast and effectively. Change it randomly switching over to the alphabet or different number strings.
Include full blown scenario training into your classes. Teach your students how to realistically model certain signals when they are playing the role of the aggressor. Also, consider getting involved every now and again. Unexpected jump in on a scenario and really amp up the pressure. Or do something new. This will cause them to go either into an unplanned emotional or data overload state – or trip up their existing mental models.
*These are concepts and models that we, as in our training community, frequently use. This is the first time that I have attempted to pen them down upon Gary’s request. If any of the readers have any input or relevant research to share it would be much appreciated.
Hello, I’m Amir, a self defense instructor from Holland, and recently I’ve shot a couple of videos featuring a force meter: a device that measures the impact of a strike. The videos show that open-hand slaps can be more effective than strikes with a closed-fist.
The device was originally designed for Taido, a martial art with some very unorthodox techniques, as a way to show students exactly how they are improving. Later, we also started using the device as a way to experiment with various techniques, and determine which generates the most force. This is where the force meter became interesting for self defense.
I’ve learned from Explosive Self Defence System (ESDS) to use the open-hand method for self defense. Because of my background in cognitive psychology, this instantly made sense to me for a number of reasons: it is an instinctive movement and a common reaction to sudden danger, it’s a gross motor movement that works well under high levels of stress, and potential witnesses are more likely to see you as the defender (rather than the aggressor) if your hands are open.
The ESDS instructors mentioned some other advantages as well: it’s a safer option than punching with a fist (less chance of hurting your own hand), the open-hand method will leave less visible damage on the attacker, it’s applicable in many different situations, and it will cause a bigger ‘shock’ to the brain – resulting in a bigger chance of a knockout.
They had some pretty convincing evidence on this last point, such as when they knocked someone out who was wearing a motorcycle helmet. On top of this they also made sure students felt the power of the open-hand, and I’ve seen plenty of students fall to the ground after a slap to the chest (or even the leg).
But does an open-hand slap really work better than a punch?
Fast forward to about 8 years later, I now had a force meter to compare the impact of an open-hand slap to a punch with a closed-fist. After dozens of tests, I consistently found that the open-hand slap generated higher levels of force. The actual angle of attack (e.g. hook or straight punch) didn’t matter: the open-hand slap came out on top every time.
You can see the result of one of the tests online: https://youtu.be/RkNRU8N2jcU
I recently repeated the experiment to determine the usefulness of open-hand strikes in MMA, and even with MMA gloves the open-hand slaps generated more force: https://youtu.be/YY2qPzR9Pfo
So, why did the open-hand slaps generate more force? Well, this mostly has to do with the difference in surface area.
A strike with a fist has a much smaller surface area than a slap with an open-hand. As a result, a strike with a fist is much more likely to break a nose or jaw. Now at first glance, this ability to break bones might make it seem like the punch is generating more power – but that’s not the case. In fact, the amount of force of a punch and open-hand are pretty much the same, the difference is that the fist concentrates all the power in a small area. The small (and hard) impact area of a fist concentrates the energy of the strike into a point, but this also means that there is less energy left to impact other areas.
On the other hand, an open-hand slap will spread the force of the strike over a larger surface area. As a result, less energy will be concentrated into a point (smaller chance of leaving any visible damage on the target), and more energy is left to travel deep into the target. When striking the head, this means that an open-hand slap will put more energy into ‘shocking’ the brain, resulting in a bigger chance of a knockout.
This is measured nicely with the force meter that we used, as the sensor was placed in the back of the pad: so that only the energy of the strike that would have impacted the brain was measured.
On top of this, there is a different factor at play that the force meter cannot measure: striking a bigger surface means that more nerve endings will be hit, and as a result that the brain will receive more pain signals. Although this alone won’t knock anyone out, it might overwhelm and cause a short freeze.
I’ve repeated this test dozens of times, more than enough to say with confidence that I have generated reliable results. However, what about validity? Is this a valid way to test open-hand vs closed-fist strikes?
There are some issues that I would like to mention. First of all, most of the people that were striking the pads were well trained in both the open-hand slaps and in closed-fist punches, but perhaps they were simply better at open-hand slaps. If this is true, then the difference in force can (partially) be explained by the participants simply being more skilled at delivering open-hand strikes.
Second, none of the participants were skeptical about the open-hand method. Perhaps they unconsciously wanted the open-hand slap to do better than the closed-fist? Until some skeptics give this a try, there is no way to know for sure.
One more issue is that the force meter itself wasn’t calibrated. This means that the measured force of the strikes cannot be translated to Newtons. So although we can definitely conclude that the open-hand slaps generated more force than the punches with the closed-fist, there is unfortunately no way to know how much more powerful the open-hand slap was (this similar to temperature: 30°C is not twice as hot as 15°C).
In the future, we should re-do the experiment with a calibrated force meter, so that we know exactly how much more powerful the open-hand slap is compared to the punch with the closed-fist.
Finally, self defense is not an exact science. Although I would like to recommend everyone to use open-hand slaps for self defense, I cannot say that the open-hand method will be more suitable in every self defense situation or for every person.
Why do people watch “fight” videos?
Watching videos of other people fighting and engaging in violent confrontations is a hugely popular pastime. Videos of this nature regularly receive millions of views on YouTube and Facebook.
What are some of the reasons that drive people watch violence? Here are a few.
One type of entertainment is the desire to watch someone “get what he or she deserves”. These videos require a clear cut Good Guy and Bad Guy to root for and against. Many times the video will be titled or subtitled in a manner that tells people who is who. For example, Gang Member Picks on the Wrong Guy, or Bully Gets His Ass Beat. These titles influence the viewer with the power of suggestion regardless of the true nature of the conflict.
This type of viewing is particularly popular among those who like to stereotype people by race, religion, gender, and occupation.
The focus of this writing is on #3 – How to learn something from a fight video.
In order to actually increase your understanding, you need to conceptualize how the video relates to your own potential behavior or the potential behavior of someone you may come into conflict with. For example, if you watch a video of a person “freezing” and you think that you would never freeze, or that the victim is just an unaware person, whereas you are always aware, then viewing this video teaches you nothing.
In this case, most likely you watch these videos due to their entertainment value for you, or the videos confirm your view that other people are helpless “sheep”, while you are not. Watching the videos becomes a means for you to feel superior.
But if you open yourself up to the idea that you too might “freeze” or be caught unaware in a similar situation, then the video has potential educational value for you.
When it comes to your own conflicts, there will be at least one human involved and that is you. The more you learn about other people’s behavior in conflict situations, the more you will learn about your own potential behavior in similar situations. If you think “I would never do that”, then you will not learn or increase your understanding on the subject.
Therefore, when you watch a conflict video, look for things occurring that surprised you, or that you didn’t think would happen. Watch it with and without sound. Ignore the title and descriptions. Come to your own conclusions. Recognize when events unfold in a manner different than you expected. Don’t just passively watch the video and make snarky comments.
Put yourself in the shoes of the victim/predator/combatants. Ask yourself, what would I do in a similar situation and why? What are other possible outcomes that could have happened? How would I have dealt with the aftermath of the conflict? Do other viewers notice aspects you didn’t? Try to determine if what happened was primarily situational or an example of systemic human behaviors.
If you don’t want to engage in this type of mental workout, that is fine too. But don’t kid yourself, you are not watching fight videos to learn, you are watching them for entertainment.