Spam and Killing – Marc MacYoung

A study at a University of Granada found that when it comes to species who ‘murder’ their own, humans don’t even make the top 50. Meerkats top the list. However, primates DO dominate the killer list’s top 100. So while humans don’t do it as much, killing our own is kind of a family tradition.

Tribalism is an elephant in the room — especially when it comes to violence. But that elephant is the baby of another, bigger elephant in the room too. Namely that violence comes in many levels, has different goals and there are … well lacking a better terms… many flavors.

Things are far more complicated and involved than “Violence never solved anything” popular among moral narcissists. (I argue that’s an extremist, absolutist and completely unsupportable position and an attempt to keep the adults from talking about the subject).

Let’s take a walk through a few points about violence and killing. Having said that we aren’t very good murderers, humans ARE pack predators.

Also, as a species we’re the most effective predators on this planet. We have literally industrialized our preying on other animals for food. During a visit to the Spam museum at the Hormel factory (long story) I was told 18,000 pigs a day go in one door and come out another — as little cans of ‘spiced ham.’ This industrialization and sanitation of our killing habits removes the normal, modern person from the realities of our food supply. Ask yourself, “What does this disconnect from having to kill to eat, do to our thinking?”

Seriously it’s a simple question, but it gets real deep real quick. The more you gather information to make an informed answer, the more you realize why there is no simple answer, which is why we need to ask it. (An added benefit is when you hear someone who claims to have ‘THE ANSWER” you recognize the following: If you aren’t confused you don’t understand the problem.) The next step is how does that influence our understanding of violence?

I’m about to give you an important foundation, even though at first it won’t seem relevant. Scientists are studying oxytocin. You know that wonderful chemical inside humans that bonds mothers to their babies, is the biological basis for love and bonding? Yes, oxytocin, the stuff that makes us all warm and fuzzy to our fellows. When we’re dosed, we’re compassionate, concerned and giving, which really, really helps make us ‘better’ people.

It turns out there’s some fine print though. The fluffy stuff from oxytocin is reserved for those we consider our ‘tribe.’ The downside of this exclusivity is it’s perfectly okay for us to … well let’s see, ignore, neglect, screw over, oppress, rip off, abuse, attack and even kill those we deem ‘other.’ All the while priding ourselves for being such good people … because you know, what we do for our family and tribe.

Then you get into Jonathan Haidt’s work on Moral Foundation Theory and how our beliefs, bind us together, blind us and separate us form those ‘evil, rotten, selfish, haters and freakish’ groups. Groups we have deemed different than us.

People we have ‘othered’, you know the people that it’s okay to act against in moral certainty. That may sound like I’m condemning folks, but in fact, I’m not. It’s how we’re wired. A wiring that modern society not only insists we ignore, but pretends doesn’t exist in the push to everyone becoming a giant, kumbaya singing uber-tribe of humanity, a push that people are pushing back against and not even realizing it.

According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar the function numbers of our immediate ‘tribe’ ranges between 100 and 250 relationships. Knowing that, you begin to see where things start getting wobbly. To think of groups of more requires certain mental gymnastics — including identifying ourselves as part of a super tribe, (generally along political, racial, religious and sub-cultural lines). We don’t know them, but we’re a super-group. To be able to identify as a part of this super tribe, you have to adopt said tribe’s ‘thinking’ and standards. Like all tribal societies, there are established and perpetuated feuds and tensions between your super-tribe and those evil, rat bastards….

All that opens the door to what I want to talk about next, (I told you this subject gets deep.) When we become most dangerous to other humans is when things go tribal — and ‘othering’ occurs.

As an FYI, every time I talk about humans being such lousy killers of fellow humans, someone always asks, ‘What about war?” – or if not brings up genocide. Well, kiddies, here it is. Tribalism, pack predation and ‘othering’, that’s also where you see our tendency for industrialized killing.

But you don’t have to be in a war to encounter ‘othering’, all you have to be is in the wrong part of town and/or a stranger.

The kind of violence you’ll face in these circumstances is different than what happens between members of the same tribe. This kind of violence escalates faster and has a greater chance of injury. Because you’re an outsider — and especially if the group thinks you’ve done something wrong — they’re often trying to injure you. Maybe even kill you… because you’re not ‘one of them.’ Violence without the intent to injure is usually inside the group disputes or a professional standard (e.g., arrest and restraint).

This dynamic really kicks in when you’re facing multiples. That’s where the pack predators ‘switch’ get flipped, you too have to mentally shift gears.

However, there’s something that’s just as important. That is being able to explain WHY you knew you were in greater danger facing a group than an individual. See people don’t understand it these days, why? Because they’ve seen too many movies where the hero fights off multiple attackers.

Understanding this is a big part of explaining why you ‘reasonably believed’…

The Rory Miller Interview Part 3 – Elie Edme

This interview was conducted  by Elie Edme for Corps Global, the English language version is reprinted in Conflict Manager and on the CRGI website with permission.

Elie: Could you share an anecdote of a particular violent situation you’ve been in?

Rory: Everyone wants the epic fight, but most were quick and decisive, one way or the other. Here’s an actual report with the details removed:

Responding to a back up call in D10, I was the first to enter and saw two inmates fighting. Inmate A had Inmate B bent over a table and was choking him with his right forearm. I ordered them to “break it up” they did not comply. I repeated the order as I moved to Inmate A’s left side. They continued to struggle. I was concerned that the stranglehold Inmate A was using could cause serious damage quickly. Placing my left elbow on the back of his free right elbow to prevent him spinning into me, I reached around his head and used my finger against the pressure point under the nose. At this point I heard the dorm deputy threaten to deploy OC (pepperspray) and saw the canister. I levered Inmate A off of Inmate B and bent his head back with the pressure point until his balance was compromised to his rear. I then moved my right foot in a circle to my rear spinning my body and forcing him to spin off of his feet. Inmate A landed on his hands and knees. I ordered him to stay down and then pushed on his shoulder with my left hand as he started to rise and yelled, “Get down!” He went down to his stomach quickly. I couldn’t tell if he complied or lost his balance. I ordered him to put his hands behind his back while I knelt on his lower back. He complied and I applied handcuffs. The second responding deputy and I helped Inmate A stand and walked him to medical without further incident.

That’s the report. There was blood everywhere and this was the first incident where I used the nose peel to break up a fight. It was really effective and so quick it almost caused a problem— the other deputies hadn’t been able to tell what happened or why it worked, so the reports looked suspicious, like they were leaving something out. Also this is where the spine untwisting throw came from.

There are other stories, but most of them were about this quick. And simple. The only ridiculously long fight I’ve been in lasted over an hour, but I wasn’t in danger at all. The guy was trying to hurt himself. If any of us released pressure or relaxed, he’d try to bang his head against the floor. I finally thought to wrap a towel around his head and kneel on it until the transport team arrived with the right restraints.

Elie: What are the consequences of living a life in constant contact with violence?

Rory: It’s never constant contact, you can’t survive that. Even if you could, you’d burn out really quickly. And everyone’s different. I can sort of say what working the jail was like for me, but a lot of the people had exactly the same experiences and feel completely different.

For me, I liked it. It was a job that took all of your observational skills, your insight, your understanding, your communications skills and sometimes your fighting skills to do well. It was better psychology training than I ever had in the university and put all the years of martial arts into perspective. It absolutely demanded my best, and as a consequence, I grew a lot.

It would have been easy to obsess on it or make the jail my whole life, but I had a really good network of friends. People who would tell me if I was getting too dark or too cynical. People that could show me that no matter what I saw or learned in the jail, the world was, on balance, a good thing and that most people were good.

And I had really good mentors. People that told me to keep my sense of humor, to keep friends that had nothing to do with my work life. Mentors that proved to me that force professions are caring professions.

The only really big downside is how much I miss it. One of the side-effects of adrenaline is that anything you do under adrenaline feels more real. Nothing since, not even Iraq, has been as intense as that, and I miss it. And there is a huge amount of ego in being very good at something most people can’t even think about.

Elie: How did you make the transition to teaching and why teach?

Rory: The first time I was teaching martial arts (jujutsu) was for completely selfish reasons. I was spoiled. When Dave retired there simply weren’t enough people around that could play the game at the level I wanted to play. And the few that could couldn’t match my schedule. I worked night or evening shifts for all but 18 months of my career. Not many people could make a midnight or 0800 class.

That’s also the reason I quit teaching jujutsu. I was almost never on the same shift two years in a row, so the people who could make an 0800 class one year couldn’t make the midnight class the next.

I started teaching deputies when we had a bad year. There’d been an administrative decision to deal with crowding by double-bunking some inmates who should never have been double bunked, in my opinion. It also had the effect of cutting the inmate’s walk time down and made it a pressure cooker. Assaults on staff skyrocketed. In one year a third of our staff were attacked and 10% hospitalized. The hand-to-hand training we had wasn’t cutting it.

I’d kept my martial arts training fairly quiet in the agency, but the training sergeant was on the CERT team with me and knew about it. So he tasked me and a few other, notably Mac (Paul McRedmond) to redesign our defensive tactics curriculum.

We were given the impossible task of teaching people how to fight for real, at levels from just non-compliant handcuffing to surviving an ambush, in eighteen hours.

It turns out that if you have no choice and really care about the people, some things that seem impossible are possible.

Elie: What are the main types of violence a civilian may have to defend himself from?

Rory: It depends a lot on lifestyle. Using the taxonomy from Facing Violence most young men only need to be worried about monkey dances. Educational Beatdowns if they are stupid and arrogant. Other people need to be worried about mugging (resource predation). All women, to some extent can be targeted for process predation, like rape. If you’re a member of any minority group you might be targeted for a group monkey dance. And there are always outliers.

Domestic violence is another one. If you are in a relationship with a violent person, there will be violence.

That said, the world for the last few years has been extremely safe. Safe enough for people to forget or believe or pretend to believe that safety is normal. One of your early questions, about whether we are born or made violent— the question itself rests on the assumption that violence is an aberration. There’s always been some kind of balance, but I think the level of nonviolence we have had for the last little while might be the aberration.

Elie: What are the greatest myths about martial arts and real life violence?

Rory: This is changing. We have access to more information now than ever before, so for the most part, people have the myths they want to have.

There are two that I’m currently putting a lot of energy into fighting. The first is part of the idea that violence is abnormal. One of the most toxic things we do in the self-defense community is to try to make fighting “special.” Something that requires a lot of training. Something reserved for only the elite few. The warrior bullshit. As Tony Blauer often says, more untrained people successfully defend themselves every day than trained people. Humans are the apex predator on this planet for a reason. Any student that comes to you, no matter how meek and timid, is the product of four billion years of evolution. That’s a lot of built-in survival genes. But because they’ve been raised in an environment where they are constantly brainwashed that violence is unnatural and that good people couldn’t do things like that, they have been socially conditioned to be passive victims. They have even been taught that passivity is a virtue.

The second is harder because it is so subconscious. Most people, especially people that train, have this assumption that on a very dark day something bad will happen and they will do what they have been trained to do…and nothing will really change.

A lot of people will mouth the words and talk about legal ramifications and psychological stress, but that’s just paying lip service. If you ever have to use serious force, you will simply not be the same person afterwards. Doesn’t mean you will be broken or damaged. Most people, in my opinion, come out much stronger if they process it well. But you will change. Profoundly.

Poem of the Month – Kevin O’Hagan

I was feeling in a poetic state of mind today, so I wrote this Ode to the Facebook Warrior.

‘I am a Martial Artist and my system is the best. It is fucking shit hot and better than all the rest.

No other Martial art is a patch on what I do. I am a super ninja killer coming after.

My art works on the street, of that make no mistake. One killer look from me can make a grown man quake.

Mine is the only opinion that matters, and everybody else’s is worth shit. I think I am a legend even though most people view me as a tit.

A bat, knife or gun I can handle with ease, just as long as you don’t resist me,then to take it off you is a breeze.

My inflated ego and opinion of myself clouds my judgement to anybody else’s art. I am so fucking deadly I could kill you with a fart.

My system is so lethal that is why I don’t compete. One touch of my finger will have you collapsing at my feet.

I can punch, kick, throw and grapple. I know I’m fucking great, I can destroy all my opponents that’s if they are under 8.

I can show how to choke out an old age pensioner for daring to take your parking space. I can teach how to stomp and kick the old bastard all over the fucking place.

If you follow my methods, you know they just can’t fail, although you will probably end up practising in jail.

You will always find me on the seminars that matter for a photo and a chat, but God forgive you’ll never actually see me on the mat.

So, I live in my little fantasy world where I never will be tested or found out. My deluded students will lick my ass and jump to my every shout.

I am a self -confessed Grandmaster with a 1Oth dan belt around my belly, the truth is most of my fighting techniques I have learnt from watching the telly.

I am Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Van Damme all rolled into one. Mc Gregor, Rickson Gracie and Mike Tyson I could beat just for fun.

So, don’t fuck with me Face-bookers, because I am a deadly man. I suggest you view my video’s and comments as often as you can.

Anything to do with fighting then I am your man. If you want to come and challenge me then please send down your Nan.

I will hide behind my keyboard and prey I won’t be found.
If I don’t live in the real world then I’ll be safe and sound.’

Facebook Post of the Month – Competitive Martial Arts and Self Protection Training – Robbie Butler

A while back I wrote a post describing how an altercation I once had completely changed my approach to how I trained in martial arts…to cut that story short….the skill set I had for the ring had given me a false sense of confidence and when I faced somebody that theoretically I should have destroyed within seconds….it actually was harder than expected….and that was just to get out of there without getting hurt.

For years I had trained to do one thing….compete.

I knew that i had specific rules to follow, I knew I had a cornerman/coach to stop it should I get into danger.

I also knew there was a referee overseeing everything.

I would have weeks to know who I was fighting, I learned how to shut everything else out around me and to focus on the guy in front of me.

Obviously I did as much fitness as I needed to and also sparred a high amount of rounds….every day….week in, week out.

Along that path you hear people saying how great you are and all that jazz…and its easy to believe it….especially when you’re regularly sparring with world class fighters and not getting hurt as much any more….even against the much heavier guys.

The altercation I had though that changed my first approach to fighting some random untrained guy though….it was because I didn’t recognise the signs of adrenalin release as being my superpower….i mistook it for fear….and panic took over.

So I researched as much as i could about adrenalin and fear so i had better understanding that adrenalin is a good thing…but as I said….is all too easy to mistake for fear.

People who trained alongside me will tell you that my fitness levels were top notch…i could blast anybody out on press ups, crunches and squats and for my size I was strong and doing anywhere between 10 and 30 rounds a day was normal.

But…in that uncontrolled environment where it was just me against somebody I had never seen before or wasn’t prepared for….

It meant nothing.

When I hit him and things bounced off….it made me worry….when I felt his strength….it set off the adrenalin…which I mistook for fear….and the techniques that were sharp for the ring were no good here….and like i said in that post a while back…i wished for somebody to break it up.

So I got more interested in self protection too because i realised that I was only training sport specific and although it had got me out of a fair amount of situations previously….the techniques and the mindset of the competitor were flawed.

I travelled the country for different seminars, searched for the answers at different clubs that offered real self protection classes…and I also discovered Google and Youtube.

I found so much information and was shown hundreds of things that should help me out….but i had to figure out myself what was real…and what was just dressed up dog shit.

What I found was it was not so much about striking techniques….it was about mindset and awareness of surroundings and understanding the things that will happen during confrontation….pre-fight….in fight….and what can happen afterwards.

So I went down the behavioural analysis route.

This taught me how to spot trouble before it happened….it taught me how to talk somebody down…it taught me how to be verbally passive and verbally aggressive.

It also taught me that people in packs are dangerous….yes…trouble may start with just you and one person…but can quickly turn into a riot.

People who don’t usually get into trouble for no reason at all will often step in and lay the boot in….

So this taught me not to be tunnel visioned….to make sure i knew where i was…who was around me…where the best exit path was….also not to trust some fuckwit because he’s apologised and wants to shake your hand.

It taught me that even when you have chilled the initial aggressor down that sometimes their friends or girlfriends will still want shit to kick off…and also that not all arguments will turn into a fight.

I taught myself methods of how to appear calm even though inside my heart was thumping….I learned how to massage egos so i was not seen as a threat any more.

Obviously I needed to train these things so I would get used to as many kinds of scenarios as I could think of….so…

In simple sparring we would have to stay switched on so the people next to you could not hit you as you got close to them while you and your own partner sparred.

We would bring tables and chairs out and see what could be done in between them, we would spar on different surfaces inside and outside including wet and icy conditions.

We would train in all types of clothing and footwear as well as learning how to run….we would start off sitting down, we would stand up, we would be blind-sided.

We would turn lights off, we would have a few beers so we knew how to be under disorientation.

We would include ashtrays, beer bottles, bricks, pick axe handles, baseball bats…all manner of household items as well as items that would be found in a pub or lying in the street….including edged weapons and stilleto shoes that women wear….believe me….women can be nasty when you have just flattened their partner.

And there were no set times in our training as to when our training partner…or groups of people would attack you…

In a nutshell….you had to switch the fuck on the moment you entered till the moment you left.

I’m not saying any of this to brag or to worry anybody into thinking the world is full of bastards or that competitive martial artists are better or worse than self protection experts….

Why I have written this is just to point out that you need to figure out your path….you have to test your limits and your theories…

You have to explore your own mind and actually feel what is going on…and you have to figure out that you may be the best at something in your dojo….you may be a world champion in the ring or on the mats….

But in life there are no rules….you truly do have to expect the unexpected.

The above may seem a little nuts to some of you….whereas in reality it should make complete sense.

If it doesn’t make sense or at least make you think now that is a good point then you are blinkered….in which case you live in a bubble and will get steam rolled.

I am no master, I am not the worlds greatest fighter and won’t profess to be….but I am a realist….you only get out what you put in…you will only find answers if you ask the right questions.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone and explore as many possibilities as you can and train them as much as you can because no matter if your a competitive martial artist or a self protection expert the bottom line is this…..

We fight how we train…….so…..

Keep it real.

Design Matters in Self-Defense Instruction Part 2 – Tammy Yard-McCracken

One quick way to frustrate a female student is to shut this down. In the beginning, telling her this discovery and curiosity is wrong, may work. It will work out of her respect for the instructor’s knowledge and skillset. It will work in strong ‘Sensei Cultures’ where no one questions the Sensei. It will work if she has intuited that to be accepted in a male-dominated class she needs to act like a guy – it will work because she is socially programmed to behave appropriately. Squashing her brain’s need and ability to run through all the train lines, into all the stops and tie together the similarities while filtering out the differences works because she is being outwardly compliant and wants the approval she will get by not being “the girl” in the class.

But give her time. As she gains confidence, skill and comfort in the male-dominated culture that interconnected superhighway in her brain is going to win out. And it should. This is one of her superpowers but if the instructor is not ready for it, he (or she – female instructors often take on the modeled male approach to teaching) will shut it down.

Here is an example. An instructor-level student is training with a cohort of instructors under a senior level guy. The skill being drilled and its related problem piqued her curiosity. She was having a hard time getting her body to do what the technique called for so she intentionally did a few repetitions incorrectly. Senior instructor walks by and asks her what she’s doing. Her answer was something like this:

“Trying to find out what happens if I don’t do this right – trying to figure out how to find the right motivation for my body to do the technique correctly…”

This did not go well. The senior guy snapped at her “just DO the technique!” – the verbal punishment was big enough everyone nearby stopped to see what the commotion was about and her training partner muttered…wow, you pissed him off!

Later, the instructor apologized.

This story is an example of what all that white matter is programmed to do. Her investigation of the training and the technique is anchored in the same neurological design that causes her to investigate those gloves, or ask a myriad of questions, or expect contingencies and exploration of options in a business meeting. This story is also an example of a tangle of social programs, expectations and failure points.

The senior instructor is frustrated by her because she is going off the reservation. She isn’t listening to him. She isn’t working the drill. He may even experience her actions as disrespectful. In traditional training cultures, her behavior is unacceptable. Note here, traditional does not apply solely to the context of ‘traditional martial arts’. Mixed Martial Arts and modern self-defense programs can fit in this box as well. The frustrated instructor may also be a woman. Just because her brain is also genetically programmed to run through the complex channels and plethora of possibilities, she has likely adjusted to the classic martial teaching paradigm and may interpret her student’s behavior through the same filters as her male colleagues.

To bring the wayward student back to task and back in line there will be corrective punishment. The punishment can be overt as in the story above, it can be subtle and back-channeled, it can be demonstrated in continued biting remarks, shaming, or open shunning. This leaves her with a choice. Handicap her strength to avoid punishment and remain connected to her training community, or leave. There is a third option, what about speaking to the instructor? This may work – if he is open to the conversation and if she has the science to back up why she wants to test these training approaches (she’ll need this to be able to articulate)– and the culture of the training program is focused on the successes of the students not the reputation of the instructors. That’s a significant number of caveats and significant socio-psychological inhibitors to a successful outcome.

There is a myriad of teaching methodologies to bring a student, any student studying any-thing, back to a specific task without punishing a student’s natural functional learning modalities. Male and female, how our brains are wired influences how we learn and how we train. In a particularly goal-oriented environment like the dojo, the superhighway of white matter connectivity in the female brain may present as an anathema. What’s really cool though, is this connectivity can be developed further and can be enhanced/increased in any brain1. The instructor who stays curious will default less frequently to classic obedient=good expectations. This instructor will create a permissive training culture and when she wants to find out what happens when she performs the technique incorrectly, he is going to be curious right along with her. It won’t be a threat to this instructor’s ego, authority or leadership. And out of this discovery training model, their partnership may uncover another possibility in response to the problem and more importantly, she learns an invaluable lesson: trust your instincts.

  1. Pick up Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code if you are intrigued.