Book Review: ‘Wrong Fu’ by Jamie Clubb – Garry Smith

First let me make clear that Jamie and I have never met, we have corresponded and talked but not in person, and no money has changed hands. I have read, quite literally thousands of books, I am pretty widely read. I have reviewed many, many books, most I have enjoyed, some that have been more than that, ‘Wrong Fu is one of the latter’.

I edit Conflict Manager Magazine and work closely with a couple of the people mentioned in this book. I teach Ju Jitsu, I have graded to 4th dan and I run the Academy of Self Defence. I know my mMA and my SD are different creatures, there is a little overlap so I just about completely agree with the messages delivered in this book.

The amount of research and underpinning knowledge necessary for Jamie to write this is extraordinary. I was once an academic, I was immersed in a world where opinion was fine but needed to be based on evidence. Jamie draws on some fantastic sources and refers to many theoretical models to identify and argue against all the major problems that exist in the MA/SD world.

However, it is not a rant. This is an incredibly concise observation of some quite complex issues and fallacies, they need challenging and this book contributes to that process. I loved it. Like any great read I will let this swish around and return to read it again another time.

I am looking forward to Enter the Bull, (even though I have trained with Master Ken and did the tiger pose, I use the pic to make my students laugh).

Final point, when I took over the teaching of Ju Jitsu nearly 4 years ago the first thing I did was scrap the use of the ‘Sensei’ title, our students call me Garry. Stop the bowing, scraping and kneeling in rank order, we still bow with a nod but stood in a circle and make it clear we did this for fun, we are not warriors, failure is inevitable and should be embraced as much as success. We are growing steadily. The MA/SD world would improve more if people listened to Jamie Clubb.

Reviewed by Garry Smith.

Do What You Can Afford Part 1 – Jake Goldstein

Newton’s Third Law states that all forces in the universe occur and act in equal and opposite pairs, and that nothing occurs in isolation. How does it relate to conflict management in general?

Well it both does and does not. On one hand, the base assumptions carry over and ring true. I will say it again: NOTHING OCCURS IN ISOLATION. Any force exerted will typically produce an opposing reaction. What doesn’t quite track is the equal part. Are the reactions proportional? Not necessarily. It is not nearly as simple and far less predictable when talking about the psychology of human interaction instead of physics. For the purposes of what we are discussing, let’s establish some basic framework. Not all forces are physical. Projecting force can take many forms, as simple as words or a gesture. The reactions can cover a full spectrum as well, to include doing nothing. Inaction is still a choice where reactions are concerned. We will call them consequences and repercussions. These in turn will prompt a response of some kind, and this process continues until some resolution is reached in the form of both belligerents either being satisfied, dissuaded of the value of continuing, or some combination. This framework of understanding begs a rather simple yet complicated question that one must ask and answer for themselves: “What can I afford?”

My wife was recently party to an incident that occurred on her commute home from work. It apparently began when an older, rough looking SUV in somewhat heavy but moving traffic cut her off very close at speed. This was close enough to severely set off the vehicle’s anti collision warnings. She of course laid on the horn, which used to be a legitimate warning and signalling device. At some point that was apparently deemed super offensive, and admittedly people do abuse and overdo it. She then made an all too common and somewhat understandable, if not necessarily well advised, decision to flip off the driver. He returned the gesture. She apparently at this particular moment laughed because of something on the radio in her own vehicle, paying no more mind to what had just happened.

Apparently that was not to be. My wife believes the other driver thought she was laughing at him, and that was the trigger for an immediate increase in aggression. He honked persistently pulling up next to her to try and get her attention for a span of approximately 3 miles. He darted in and out of heavy traffic pulling next to her and stopping to get even alongside whenever possible. She did her best to not make eye contact or appear to pay any sort of attention out of fear and trying not to escalate the situation. She felt the best course of action was to stay in traffic with witnesses. The driver eventually pulled in front of her vehicle, which she willingly allowed. He flipped her off a couple more times before aggressively cutting across all three lanes of traffic to make a U-turn in the opposite direction.

This situation happened to end rather unremarkably. But it could have spiralled much further out of control. I will admit, even from my considerably different perspective, this encounter seemed like a relative outlier and the reaction of the other party rather extreme.

Part 2 will appear in the August edition.

Rory Miller Interview Part 4 – Elie Edme

Elie – Do you believe self-protection and self-defense are one and the same?

Rory – I try not to get too much into semantics. The words mean whatever you want them to mean.

Elie – What would be a great foundation to self-protection training for a civilian who doesn’t want to train his whole life?

Rory – I’d advise that civilian to quit thinking of them as self-protection skills. You shouldn’t put training time into preventing bad stuff. Training time should go into enriching your life. Developing awareness skills makes life more fun. The fact that you’ll notice odd and dangerous behavior is a side-effect. So I’d have this theoretical civilian get into people watching as a hobby.

It’s simply a better life if you have a fit body. Strength, speed, endurance, coordination— all make life more fun. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can be better. Get out from behind the desk. Move. It’s good for you. And you know what? If that movement involves throwing and punching another human being it’s just as healthy and more fun and might come in handy if a bad guy tries to ruin your life.

Looking at it this way, you can train your whole life and it won’t feel like training.

Elie – What is your methodology for teaching efficient self-defense skills?

Rory – There appear to be two things I do differently, but I’m sure it will spread. The first is principles-based teaching. Almost nothing to memorize. Give the students the physics, tie it into what they already know (if you’ve pushed a car out of the mud you already understand structure) and have them experiment with the principles.

The second is being specific about information transfer.

The way I break it up, there are four ways to get information into students’ heads: Teaching, Training, Operant Conditioning, and Play. Teaching is sharing concepts from the neocortex to the neocortex by juggling symbols. Lecture, writing, diagrams are all teaching. Almost anything you are taught is useless under stress.

Training is anything you do by conscious practice. It is all the drills and rote memory practice. The thousands of reps punching or stepping into a throw or transitioning precisely from a specific armlock to a triangle choke. Training is almost useless in your first few real fights. Your hindbrain simply doesn’t trust it.

Operant Conditioning. There are a bunch of numbers running around: that it takes 300-500 reps to instill a new motor skill, 3000-5000 if you are replacing an old skill. That’s training. How many reps did you need to learn not to touch a hot stove? Once. That’s the difference between conditioning and training. You can’t condition complex responses, but conditioned responses will come out in your first encounter.

Play, in my opinion, is the most important. This is how animals learn. This is how you learned everything you are really good at.

So my specific methodology for most things, is that we have a general game, competitive and with different levels of resistance. The students play the game. Then we break out and work on a skill, like structure. And the students experiment with structure and play one or more games that work with structure in isolation. And then we go back into the general game to integrate the new skills with the old skills. Works for awareness, physical skills and even articulation.

Elie – To what extent can you acclimate yourself to violence during training while never experimenting a real life violence scenario?

Rory – You can’t. Sorry. Anymore than you can acclimatize yourself to cold water by practicing swimming on dry land. No matter how good the simulation gets, it’s not the real thing and the hindbrain knows it.

The three keys, as I see them:

Operant conditioning to get past the sudden attack. A conditioned response will appear without conscious thought and a good response can end the encounter or at least level the playing field before you have time to freeze.

Play. Things you do in play just become the natural way to move. If your play has involved moving bigger people, throwing them downstairs and hitting really hard, when you break the freeze it will be harder to hit softly. However if your play was soft, that will come out, too.

The third is permission. Most people in our society have been systematically told NOT to use force, NOT to act. You will have to fight this conditioning. Let your students know that it’s okay to fight, that they have absolute permission to unleash their natures and adapt and survive.

Elie – What use do you make of scenarios and what is their importance in training?

Rory – In many ways, scenario training is the culmination of all other training exercises. Done properly, the goal is to get as close to real life as possible, without the physical, psychological and legal consequences that can attend a real self-defense incident.

There are a lot of reasons for doing scenario training but for me the most important is to get the student working judgment in tandem with skills.

I feel a need to be cautious here. Scenarios can be intense, and they can be very valuable. But they are dangerous on multiple levels. If your safety protocols aren’t rock solid, they can be physically dangerous— you’ll be using a lot of force in a cluttered, realistic environment and students are always unpredictable. They can be psychologically dangerous— a realistic scenario can always trigger an emotional meltdown. And scenarios can be tactically dangerous— if your scenario designer, facilitator or role players are ignorant or have big egos they can ruin a student’s understanding forever.

If you can’t do scenarios right, and my experience is that only about 20% of the people offering scenarios has any clue about how to run them well or safely— if you can’t run them right it is better for your students not to run them at all.

Elie – What are the aftermath of violence on a psychological level?

Rory – That’s different for everybody and different for different levels of exposure.

Elie – How did you personally cope with the psychological aftermath of violence in your job? Did it have an impact on your personal life?

Rory – Coping mechanisms ranged from having a good network of close friends to sitting in the dark rocking and humming.

Personally, the violence didn’t affect me much. Largely because of the action. Or maybe I don’t process fear normally. The things that stuck with me were never the fear, it was the horror. I found one of my old journals that has a few lines— about a fight in a dorm, lots of blood and three to ‘the hole’ (disciplinary segregation). I have no memory of that. But I remember a baby that was born in booking. The mother arranged to be arrested so she’s have medical care for the birth. She also maxed out on heroin and I can’t remember whether her second drug was meth or crack. But here’s this newborn, addicted to two different drugs. Mom’s an addict and prostitute who only cares about the baby to the extent she can get more benefits from it… the kid’s doomed. Perfect, innocent life. And doomed. That’s the stuff that stayed with me. Suicides. What kind of asshole arranges a suicide so the body will be found by an eleven-year-old? A guy explaining that stabbing a little girl “didn’t count” because he was trying to stab her father and she was “dumb enough” to try to intervene. The dude had no remorse whatsoever, he could see no reason why he should get in trouble for this particular murder.

That’s the stuff that sticks with me. The immediate violence I could do something about.

Rocking in the dark and humming has its place, but probably the most important thing was always having friends and never being afraid to talk. Some of my fellow officers had this idea that you can’t share what you see with your loved ones because they can’t handle it. That’s bullshit. Trust me, if you stay silent the shit they imagine will be ten times worse than the reality. And talking lets you stay anchored to the normal world.

Interview with Rory Miller English version reprinted in Conflict Manager and on CRGI with permission of  Elie Edme for Corps Global

Talking to Savages 60 Podcast with Karen Moxon Smith – Randy King

Karen Moxon Smith is an experienced criminal defence lawyer and senior partner at a Norrie, Waite and Slaters in Sheffield. She has over 25 years experience of dealing with every type of crime from driving offences to murder. Karen has extensive experience of the English legal system and how it works, which is very often different for how the public think it works.


Can’t fix Stupid, Nor Can You Educate Predator Out of Someone – Brandon Sieg

You have heard it jokingly said that you can’t fix stupid. I have taught martial arts and self-defense at a small liberal arts university for 20 years, so the joke about me trying is too easy. Rather, this article is about a fallacy that I see gaining an increasing foothold in the enlightened minds of university circles that is more futile than fixing stupid. And that is trying to educate predation out of predators.

In my self-defense course we cover boundary setting and use a role play for illustration (this will sound familiar to FAST Defense alumni). In the scenario a timid woman is at the company office party when the sleazebag makes his move. Reading no verbal or body language cues to suggest a boundary, the guy invades space and ultimately forces a hug upon her as she tries to cower away. We pause, and I ask the class, “What went wrong?”

One girl, clearly indignant on behalf of the woman who was just slimed, raises her hand and answers, “He clearly didn’t recognize she was uncomfortable with his presence.”

You think this class is about fixing the douchebags of the world, let alone just all the clueless men? And no, he absolutely recognized her discomfort, he just didn’t care.” This is just one example of students thinking the solution to aggression is fixing or educating the predator.

One night at this same university, a safety alert text was issued that a date rape drug had been used on campus and urged everyone to exercise caution. An opinion piece in the school paper took issue with the text and called it victim blaming. This lauded editorial insisted that the safety alert should not have been telling women to be careful, it should have been reminding men not to drug women. For comparison, the article pointed out that the PSAs for drunk driving don’t warn motorists to be careful of drunk drivers, but rather bluntly tell people not to drink and drive. But I wonder if the high functioning alcoholic really cares? Nor does the rapist care about a text.

The article goes on to assert more time needs to be spent educating men not to rape women and less time educating women how to avoid it. Perhaps that is a worthwhile social goal, but it is a horrible self-defense strategy. What college age male doesn’t know that society frowns upon drugging and raping women? Based on that logic I can fix the campus rape problem in five minutes. On the admission application, add an additional question: is it ok to drug and rape women (check the box yes or no.) If they check “yes,” don’t let them into the school! Problem solved, they don’t meet the educational standards of the university. So apparently the real problem must lie in the admissions office, because they keep letting rapists in!

Or maybe it is that some people don’t give a crap and are going to take what they want anyway. Too many people, however well intentioned, spend too much time and mental effort complaining that someone needs to educate the predators and not nearly enough time preparing to deal with the predators who choose to flunk the lesson.

This same issue applies to other conflict as well. Just recently at the same university, racist remarks were written on a bathroom stall and other public areas of campus. The student body, faculty, and alumni went into an uproar and demanded the administration and the university “do more.” I asked a Chinese student , who was clearly agitated by a bunch of words she only heard second hand about, what exactly constituted more? The first words out of her mouth were “more education.” Now trust me when I say that students at this school are constantly bombarded by messages of inclusion and diversity. But we need more. Because apparently some young adults never got the memo that racism is not ok. Again, I would cheekily assert that you have an admissions problem, not an education problem. Add another question: is racism ok? (check yes or no).

Obviously there are way too many people in the world who still check yes. But it isn’t because no one ever told them racism is wrong. I am sure they have heard it plenty. Most simply choose to ignore the message or vehemently disagree. You can’t fix stupid. And you can’t educate assholes who refuse to learn.

On a grander, societal level, these are very important questions to be discussed. Should we continue to combat and expose racism? Every decent person agrees. Should we get to the root causes of violence against women and do a better job of eliminating them? Unquestionably. Should we resign ourselves to the fact that people can’t change for the better, and that every predator is doomed to a life of recidivism and beyond help? Of course not. These are worthwhile goals for society, but I am pessimistic we will ever see them in our lifetime.

And in the meantime, they have nothing to do with personal protection in your everyday life. When the violent predator is standing in front of you, does it matter if he is there because of genetics, various sizes of parts of his brain, the amount of fish in his diet, upbringing or childhood, or any other host of indicators? None of it matters or helps you in the next few, most traumatic minutes of your life.

Like the one girl who thought a chunk of my self- defense class was supposed to be spent talking about how we need to teach 10-12 year old boys that “No” means “No.” When the predator is in front of you, are you going to have meaningful dialogue and dissuade him of his opinion that what he is about to do shouldn’t be done? Do you want to be armed with skills to deter or defeat him, or do you want to be armed with only rhetoric? I hope I educated the education mindset out of her, or then again, maybe what they say is true and you can’t fix stupid.