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In martial arts and self defense we make the mistake of looking outside ourselves for the keys to protecting our loved ones. We look for physical techniques and even weaponry more often than we go inside for answers. We study boxing matches and look for the magic bullet. What would prevail, boxing or judo? What will build the best body, cardio or kettlebells? In an actual self defense confrontation, attitude may be our number one mental tool and it is in jeopardy when we are over-stimulated and malnourished.
What on earth is an article on nutrition doing in a magazine about managing conflict? Because, through an overabundance of entertainment and processed foods we have created an epidemic of bad behavior, the symptoms of which are major attention and focus deficits, adrenal fatigue, pathological frustration, anger and road rage and even depression and mental illness.
In Sayoc Kali, a Filipino tribal art I studied for ten years, health and life management skills were considered the first order of business. There is an old saying I never forget, though I can’t find whom it is attributed to. It goes something like this, “When daily things are out of order, life is like trying to build a lasting structure on sand.” The brain is the window through which we survey and respond to the world. Is your window clear, foggy or even warped or broken?
When we think of food, most of us think of carbohydrates, fat and protein – the macronutrients (at least when we aren’t thinking of the trifecta of sugar, salt and fat). We rarely think of micronutrients, the little puzzle pieces that plug the holes and do more than siimply satisfy hunger. Micronutrients feed the brain. One could go so far as to say that in many ways micronutrients create attitude.
A few years back, comedian Lewis Black said, “For all we study about health, we know nothing. Is milk good or bad? … I rest my case.” Food quality is a big deal right now. A hamburger isn’t a hamburger anymore and broccoli isn’t even broccoli. How is it grown? Cooked? How far has it traveled?
In 2006 Investigative Journalist and Author Michael Pollan, ushered in the slow food movement of quality over quantity with his books The Omnivores Dilemma and Food Rules, An Eaters Manual. Pollan dedicated his book to his Mom, “who always knew butter was better than margarine.” We now have access to the most pragmatic and effective eating science and ideology in history, which, according to Pollan, though encouraging, isn’t saying much, “Nutrition science… is today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650-very promising…but are you ready to let them operate on you?” He suggests we eat a varied diet of real food. His simple mantra is, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” We have all heard the buzz, but only a handful of us are willing to tackle ensconced cultural attitudes and a life of carefully cultivated taste buds.
When I competed in Taekwondo tournaments, I consumed tons of whole grain pasta, bagels and bananas thinking I was being healthy. I look back now and wonder how many injuries, headaches and sleepless nights I could have avoided if I had been eating the way I do now. How many wins did I forfeit while my body struggled to build a structure on sand?
Ask yourself a few questions to see if you may be lacking in some common nutrients:
Do you regularly experience lapses of short term memory? Do names escape you? Do you forget what you came into a room to do?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed or tired? Even if you have spent a reasonable amount of time in bed? You may even feel physically tired but mentally wired.
- Have you suffered from depression or lack of motivation without a clear reason? Does your mood seem out of sync with actual circumstances, or do you worry too much about things you can’t control?
- Do you get every cold that comes to town?
- Is your hair is thinning even though it doesn’t run in the family?
- Are you are exercising and eating less but not losing weight?
- Do you have trouble getting through the night without waking up fifty times?
- Do you snap easily when people get on your nerves?
- Is your energy level chronically low? Libido?
- Do you have issues with healing from injury or with chronic inflammation like tendonitis?
Nutrition may or may not be behind these uncomfortable and life-diminishing things. There is only one way to find out. Here is the short and sweet of nutrition (without the sweet).
The Green Stuff
My biggest revelation of late has been in challenging myself to eat a minimum of a pound of vegetables per day. It was tough in the beginning, but it has become a craving. Now I generally eat at least three different veggies at every meal. The change has been nothing short of miraculous – generally clarity, stress resilience, less joint pain and many fewer colds. We all know it is better to look good than to feel good – at 48 my skin was drying out, now I don’t even need moisturizer and it has become easy to maintain my ideal weight.
The more veggies you eat the less you eat of other things, so stuffing yourself with veggies is also a great way to lose weight. I love asparagus. Grate lemon or even orange zest over it after steaming. Artichokes with a little butter and salt for dipping are my popcorn. A handful of frozen spinach in almost any shake leaves no veggie flavor and just a bit of texture. My son likes my “oreo” shakes. The spinach helps add the texture.
Eat wild foods if you can get them
There are often more nutrients in the weeds in your yard than in the produce you buy at the store. In short, ten thousand years ago we ate food grown in rich soil and pick wild berries fresh from the bush. We ate small amounts of nutrient-dense foods instead of large amounts of nutrient poor foods. We are literally starving to death and overfed at the same time. This is a brand new problem. Two meals that appear exactly the same and may even taste the same can be vastly different nutritionally. Where did it come from? how long has it been sitting around on a truck or in a warehouse? If it was once an animal, what did it eat? If it is a plant, what was the soil like and was it heavily sprayed? Antioxidants are a plant’s way of fighting off disease and pests. Chemically sprayed plants actually lose their ability to protect themselves. As a result they lose their nutritional kick. It is now possible to buy oranges with virtually no vitamin c in them. Just writing that sentence gives me scurvy.
Many weeds are excellent additions to a salad or even a shake – chickweed, clover, dandelions, lambs quarters and purslane have a higher nutrient density than virtually all of the salad you are paying good money for. Just make sure the dogs haven’t been there first and of course, wash it all thoroughly, even if it’s organic. Organic produce is sprayed with often very toxic and less regulated pesticides. Nothing is sacred.
(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONTH….)
From our very first contact with our students to the last, we should work to give them an understanding of what learning looks like. This is crucial for helping students keep going when things seem tough. After all, to a lot of people, learning looks like failure – because by definition, the student who is learning is the one who has not already reached their goal. They’re still in process.
To help students forgive themselves for being in process, we should tell them how that process looks and explain how it can help them reach their goals. Knowing what learning looks like can be useful for us as instructors, because once we know what it looks like when our students are learning, we find it much easier to tell whether they actually are. This helps us do our jobs better, and allows us to spot-check the quality of our work throughout the day.
The type of learning that we see happening can also give us some clues for how each student needs to be coached for best improvement. A frustrated learner on the edge of an “aha!” moment may need only a word of encouragement or a suggestion to try a slight shift in strategy on the existing task, while someone who is advancing slowly may need a higher bar or a fresh challenge. There’s also a significant difference between coaching someone who has had no prior experience (and who therefore can be expected to make giant leaps in skill with relatively little effort), and coaching someone who has had a great deal of experience (whose improvements will be more incremental and often require much more effort). Knowing what to expect at different points in the learning process can help us coach our students more effectively.
So, what does learning look like?
It doesn’t take much detective work to catch the first type of learning. It’s the one learning phase that nearly everyone has experienced, and the one we most commonly expect to see and feel for ourselves when we are in the learner’s role. It is not, however, the only type of learning there is.
Learning looks like a sudden wild jump forward with almost no effort. Or sometimes, a series of wild jumps forward with very little effort. This one’s probably the most fun and it’s definitely the easiest to spot. Think of the brand-new beginner who has literally never held a handgun before. At first the shooter is tentative, maybe a little nervous. He’s wondering whether he really wants to do this thing after all. He can’t quite figure out where to put his hands and he’s not sure how the mechanics of the gun might work. But you let him know that it’s normal to feel that way and that there’s no pressure. As long as he stays safe, he can do whatever he likes and nobody will think worse of him for it. Then you show him how to hold the gun and describe how to line up the sights. He presses the trigger for the first time and turns around with a huge grin on his face. He says, “This is fun!” And so it is. A few minutes later, with just a little coaching about trigger use, he’s slowly but happily putting all his shots into a 5-inch circle at 5 yards. Smiles all around.
Just before this type of learning really starts, while the student is still a bit worried or nervous, we as coaches may need to provide reassurance and a little encouragement. But once students find their courage and are willing to try, all we really need to do is suggest what they should do and then mirror their enthusiasm while they do it. They will do the rest.
This happy, almost effortless turn of events provides a lot of reward for just a little work. It does take some effort, but the payoff in pleasure far outweighs the energy we put into it. With such a predictably high return on investment, this early part of the learning process feels so good that people easily get addicted to it. That’s why many people bounce from fresh new hobby to fresh new hobby, never really becoming the master of any one thing.
Some people expect learning to look like this at every step along the way. When it doesn’t, they falter and fumble, think themselves incompetent or incapable or unsuited for the task. They’re tempted to give up as soon as the going gets tough – not because they don’t have it in them to succeed, but because they think they don’t. Or because nobody has ever shown them what it might take for them to reach success. They don’t know what other types of learning look like. They might even believe that anything less than immediate, effortless success means they are “bad at” the task they are trying to learn, and thus there’s no point in trying.
These folks need to know that not all accomplishment comes without cost, and that it’s normal to struggle a little bit along the way to higher achievement. They need to know that learning sometimes looks more like hard, steady effort for relatively small gains.
Learning looks like hard work for small improvements. After the first big burst of progress, the learning process may look like a series of small steps forward that come only with effort. Unlike that first wild jump, later learning tends to take more work and provide less reward for the amount of energy the learner puts into it. To be more accurate, maybe we can say that the bulk of the student’s work changes from making an effort of will (“Do I really want to learn how to shoot this thing?”) into making an effort of skill (“What physical behavior do I need to change in order to reach my performance goal?”). As students progress in their abilities, the learning slope gets a little steeper and each improvement takes a little more work.
Consider the intermediate student who has a measurable goal: she wants to draw from concealment and get a good hit on a handprint-sized zone in the upper center chest at seven yards in less than two seconds. And she wants to do this reliably, every single time she tries it, all day long.
To reach this goal, the student first needs a solid dose of good instruction. What does an efficient drawstroke look like? What elements does she need to include for safety? How should she clear her cover garments? She needs information, so you provide that information and give her a good model to follow. But that’s only the beginning of her process. Now she needs to try it for herself. At first she moves slowly, making sure she has the broad outlines of the drawstroke, making sure she can get the good hits she’s after, making sure each of the elements is in place as she thinks her way through the entire procedure. You watch and make sure her practice stays clean, her technique correct, so she doesn’t engrain bad habits. Where can she eliminate wasted motion? How can she fix the mistakes that lead to added time or missed shots? You work to help her find those elements and correct them.
As she works, you’ll soon notice a pattern in her efforts.
One example of such a pattern: you might see that when she concentrates on one element of this complex skill set, other elements slip away from her. When she concentrates on bringing the gun quickly out to the target, for example, she might fail to see any part of the sights or fail to press the trigger properly. When she thinks about her trigger press and sight alignment, she moves too slowly out to target. She’s having a hard time keeping all the elements in their proper place and balance.
Or you might notice that when your student concentrates on one thing, she actually gets clumsier or slower at doing that one thing. For example, we sometimes see this happen if we spend too much time telling students how to move instead of simply telling them that they need to move. They slow down because they can’t figure out which foot to move next. The more extreme version of this can even spread to other elements. When the student thinks too much about her feet, for example, she slows down and also loses track of her muzzle direction.
Or you might notice that when your student concentrates on one element of the skill, that element improves and several other elements also fall quite nicely into place without her paying direct attention to them. We see this happen sometimes when we tell a student to concentrate on getting a good, solid firing grip on the gun while it is still in the holster, which often preps them to move smoothly throughout the remainder of the draw. Call this the golden move for instructors: finding the element that, when the student concentrates on it, actually improves not just itself but also the other elements around it.
As you watch your student work any complex skill with multiple elements, you might notice these patterns, or any of several other patterns of improvement you can work with. Each one should lead to a different emphasis in your coaching. In this sense, your skill as a coach will be directly related to your skill as an observer.
The challenge for your student is that she will need to perform many different elements in the right way and in the right order before she can reach her overall goal. This is another place where your skill as a coach comes into play. You must decide which errors you should draw to your student’s attention right away, which errors you will address later, and (because life is not perfect and you have a limited time with each student) which errors you must leave for her to work out on her own during later practice.
Think of the process you use to decide which errors to correct immediately as something like medical triage:
- Safety Errors. Some errors (particularly those related to safety) would be catastrophic if left uncorrected. These you must address at once no matter what else is going on.
- Critical Errors. Some errors (such as failing to press the trigger correctly) will very likely stop her from reaching her goal, regardless of what else she is doing right. Correct these more significant errors one at a time, as soon as you reasonably can, because they are a decisive factor in her success.
- Non-Critical Errors. Some errors may affect her efficiency or consistency, without having a strong impact on her ability to reach the immediate goal. You may choose to set these errors aside to work on at a later time, or start tackling them one by one after the more significant errors are fixed.
Your decision to temporarily disregard minor errors frees your student to focus on the factors that keep her safe, and to make changes that will have the biggest impact on her shooting development. After she has corrected (or at least learned how to correct) the big-picture errors, you can shift your own focus to help your student identify the smaller issues that she should work on.
As a rule, good coaches suggest that students change only one thing at a time. There is one exception: if your student is doing two things that are unsafe, you must address both of those things immediately. For example, if she is pointing the gun at her leg with her finger on the trigger, it is not enough to tell her only to point the gun elsewhere, or only keep her finger off the trigger. Even if changing two things at once confuses her, she cannot safely work on anything else until she takes care of both these problems. She must make both of the needed changes even if changing two things at once confuses her. You cannot allow her to fix one thing while ignoring the other, because that would be unsafe. And this is true no matter what other new ideas she’s trying to process.
If you see or even suspect that correcting the safety issues in tandem will not get your student to a place where she can work without posing a risk to herself or others, do not allow her to work with a functional gun. Instead, have her learn the skills with a dummy gun, or some other type of gun-shaped object that could never under any circumstances launch a bullet. Allow her to use a working firearm only after she has used the non-functional one to smooth away her confusion and her existing bad habits. Then make sure she also gets a few dry runs with the real gun before loading it for live-fire work.
Safety factors aside, suggest only one change at a time for students who are in the incremental phase of learning. Make sure your students get enough repetitions to see how each change improves their performance before you suggest the next one.
When making many small improvements toward a big goal, students often feel discouraged because it often feels as though nothing is changing at all, or as though things are not changing quickly enough. The student can feel like she’s driving along an endless highway, with the high mountains of her goal far off in the distance and seeming never to get closer no matter how many miles pass under the wheels. To work around this, try giving the student a series of smaller goals that she can reach more easily. As she reaches each small milestone, she can see and feel that she’s still making progress toward the larger one. The smaller goals function just as the mile markers along a highway let a driver know she is drawing closer to mountains that are so far in the distance that the scenery barely shifts as she drives.
For example, if the student’s eventual goal is to make that two-second draw from concealment with a good handprint-sized group at seven yards, you may want to start out with a three-second par time. Or you may try moving the target a little closer – five yards rather than seven. You can increase the difficulty once your student has met the easier standard.
Be sure to help your student celebrate each milestone before you drive on to the next. Few things are more discouraging than to conquer a challenge that we find difficult, only to have someone else imply that it wasn’t much of a challenge and not worth paying any attention to because there’s still more work to do. So acknowledge, even celebrate, each milestone along the way. In this way you can keep your student engaged and working hard to improve even when she might feel discouraged about her progress toward the overall goal.
|“Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” – popular video game
This series of small, measurable improvements toward a larger goal definitely looks like learning from our perspective. But it’s not the only thing we might see while our students are learning.
Oftentimes during one of my seminars, or when I get a new student, the question arises, what is WeaselCraft, what does it mean, and why do you use it. Origination of the term comes from famed Firearms writer and instructor Massad Ayoob. He defined it as all the non-traditional things you do in a fight to survive. Back in the heyday of internet forums, I was part of the moderator team at SelfDefenseForums.com, and my Brother and fellow moderator Don Rearic made a comment about me in a thread that stuck, he called me a ‘street weasel of the first order.’ Because of this, the name stuck, and soon all of the things I taught or wrote became labelled as WeaselCraft. A friend did a couple drawings representing a street weasel, and thus it was born.
Now that we have the history, I will go into why I still use it, and what it means to me. I like the term, it is unique, and it really sets the boundaries and marks the differences between what I teach and believe from other approaches. In a way, for me, it harkens back to the animal styles of Chinese martial arts, but for me, the animals become Weasel, Rabbit, Honey Badger, Fox, and Crow.
Above all else, WeaselCraft is a mindset. A way of thinking that has only one goal, to get myself and my loved ones home, any way needed. There is no dogma or tradition, no rituals, just a set of concepts and loose rules that inform the way I operate and move through my environment.
As mentioned, the most important aspect of WeaselCraft is results, I want to get home, I don’t care how, as long as there is as minimal an impact on our lives as possible, and we are safe, from both the immediate threat and the aftermath. This outlook and goal orientation makes a lot of options available, as when you realize, for example, that machoism has no place in a survival incident, and there is no shame or ‘proper’ form in surviving, you can get straight to the point.
Skillsets become very important when you are applying anything to a survival situation. In my experience, software, or skillsets, become much more important than hardware, or all the neat little tools and toys on the market. With the proper skillset and outlook, tools can be applied as needed, or created on the spot, but the opposite is not true. As we have all heard, when all you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail, when you have a complete mental toolbox… I think you get the picture.
But, what skillsets are important?
Awareness and observation; these are listed first because without them, nothing else matters. If you cannot see the problem, or the escape route, you cannot do anything about the issue at hand. This applies to confrontation, violence, and emergency situations of all types. To be good at WeaselCraft, or personal survival in general, or life itself, spend more time working on these skills.
Mental flexibility; the ability to see outside the box, alternative uses for items, differences and how to use them to your advantage.
Adaptability; I wanted to say resilience, but adaptability hits closer to the core of my philosophy. The ability to bounce back, use what is given you, change what you have to what you need, and see how and what you need to see. These are key skills, and without them, nothing else works.
Toughness; the ability and attitude to keep going to achieve your goal. But not in the limited definition, it also means the toughness to make hard choices, forgo ego stroking or feel good decisions, to complete your mission.
Decision making; this is an oft overlooked aspect of skill development. In a live fire event, the quicker you can decide, the better choices and more time you have to affect your plan.
Related to these, and falling more into the physical realm, WeaselCraft looks at physical skills that we deem more important than the fighting aspect. Things such as trauma care, escape and evasion, conflict communications, anti-abduction skills, active people watching and awareness, and other “black bag” type skills.
All the above skills are important to us, as it is better to avoid than confront, better to confront than fight, and better to fight than die. Avoidance skills need constant practice, and take up a large portion of our mental workout, and individual training.
Physically, our skillset is primarily taken from the SouthEast Asian martial arts, particularly Silat and Kali. However, the way we apply them is much more combative in nature than you normally find them. We take the principles and motion base from our arts, and apply them to modern situations.
We place great emphasis on maintaining a low profile, non-tactical appearance. I would say we follow the Grey Man theory, but now I see that has been made into a commercial venture, so we just try to look as normal as we can, considering we are very tool oriented.
Finally, a large portion of our training time is devoted to weapons, both use of, and defense against. The reason is simple, we are more likely to be attacked or threatened with a weapon, so we need to know how to deal with them, and with our first rule and goal being to go home, weapons are the equalizer, especially against larger, or multiple opponents. The weapons we concentrate on are small knife, various impact/stick weapons, pocket stick and variants, and a few flexible weapon skills.
None of us live in a vacuum, and we try to apply all of these skillsets and hardware to the modern legal context, as long as it supports our goal of being safe, and going home.
As I sit here listening to Mississippi Queen, at home, I hope you take my approach, think about it, and let it inform your own way of getting home.
“People never forget verbal abuse. It sinks deeper and festers longer than any other kind of abuse.”
“Words cut deeper and their wounds fester longer than traumas of the sword.”
Dr. George J. Thompson, Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion
My favorite Doc admission was that he was his own best student. Doc used his background and his training in rhetoric and martial arts to create a lasting legacy that we can all benefit from – who hasn’t been baited and taken the hook for a personal criticism, and then lashed out defensively without thinking? One of Doc’s great tools is learning how to deflect the negativity – his samurai depiction of moving the head to avoid the spear. You truly CAN do better. We all can.
“The choices you make while attempting clear communication can be the difference between having an average/typical evening and one that ends in the arrest of a person for taking umbrage with your message using less skillful methods.”
i.e. he pulled a knife after I asked him to leave!
Yes, it actually happened something like that.
‘On Ko Chi Shin’ = Study the old, understand the new. Something that Doc brought to the fore when developing his Verbal Judo program. Doc referenced from his Martial Arts training to Jigoro Kano, and Japanese Samurai wisdom to correlate what he was trying to do with words with what the Martial Artists did with their physical force OR wisdom. Judo was developed by Jigoro Kano after he learned more about body mechanics and physics – to move the immovable more easily. Ju – Gentle, Do – way. Truly studying from the old to understand the new – using words to move the unwilling to do what you want them to, without use of physical force.
Doc’s inspiration to name his ‘system’ Verbal Judo was Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. Doc pulled many ideas from his Martial Arts experience to formulate his own maxims based on his knowledge of Judo techniques and the maxims of Jigoro Kano. Doc cites many references to this in his second book on Verbal Judo: Redirecting Behavior With Words.
“Doc has been very active over the last few weeks -nudging me in a few new directions!
I’ve been doing some spending and research based on things Doc wrote in his second VJ book about the origins of VJ and the correlation between the verbal aspects and the physical techniques of Jigoro Kano. To better understand Doc’s intentions, I have to fully understand the connections to specific Jigoro Kano Maxims and techniques that Doc names and describes in the book. Trying to run down Doc’s reference to Jigoro Kano’s study at Oxford whereby he studied muscles and bones and determined that he needed to change some of his techniques based on his newfound knowledge of physiology.”
“Using verbal commands to aid in getting a situation under control can’t be underestimated – you have to tell them what you need in order for them to comply. One person should be doing the communicating. It needs to be slow, concise, and deliberate. Sometimes they fight back as their survival instinct has kicked in – they may be fighting to ‘stay alive’ only, and not fighting ‘you.’ They may be fighting your actions to control them – YOU need to make that distinction, it’s YOUR job to do that.
Don’t take the actions personally. Treat it as a negotiation. Put it in context – it may be more than you counted on or outside your experience. It could be drugs, mental health issues, MR or Autism that you are seeing and dealing with. Don’t assume anything. Be the professional, and continually re-assess your actions. To get compliance sometimes you just need to explain your actions while you’re engaging them physically to get that. Your goal is to do so with minimal damage. Explaining yourself to them may make ALL of the difference. Use your Verbal Judo knowledge and skills to get that result – safely, and compassionately. Review often. Improve your skills continually.
Here are some sagely words to live by, as outlined in Doc’s 16 Maxims from his second Verbal Judo book, ‘Verbal Judo: Redirecting Behavior With Words’:
MAXIM #1: “Move confrontations away from conclusions back to the reasoning process.”
MAXIM #2: “Help them seek new approaches rather than argue about the right answer. Never debate any point that can be resolved by examining the facts.”
MAXIM #3: “Motivate others by raising their expectations of themselves.”
MAXIM #4: “Seek what they do well, help them define their own self-worth.”
MAXIM #5: “Persuade others with their energy.”
MAXIM #6: “Learn what is in their best interests. Persuade them through an appeal to that interest.”
MAXIM #7: Direct others rather than control them.”
MAXIM #8: “Recognize their need for independence. Assume responsibility for their doing well, not for doing their job.”
MAXIM #9: “Give way in order to control.”
MAXIM #10: “Seek a middle position that will satisfy their needs and your limits. Insist on discussing principles, not personal preferences.”
MAXIM #11: “Embrace frustration with empathy.”
MAXIM #12: “Always harmonize with their pain. Lead them though their distress with reason.”
MAXIM #13: “Overcome hard with soft.”
MAXIM #14: “Ignore the impact of their insults. Enforce the authority of the institution, not the power of your anger.”
MAXIM #15: “Be disinterested when you punish.”
MAXIM #16: “When you punish for clearly defined rules violations, set aside personal indignation. Respect the authority that empowers you to discipline.”
There is a lot to be learnt from these Maxims! And I’ll leave you with: ‘11 Things You Should Never Say‘:
- 01) “Come Here!”
- 02) “You wouldn’t understand.”
- 03) “Because those are the rules.”
- 04) “It’s none of your business.”
- 05) “What do you want me to do about it?”
- 06) “Calm Down!”
- 07) “What’s YOUR problem?”
- 08) “You never…” or “You always…”
- 09) “I’m not going to say this again!”
- 10) “I’m doing this for your own good.”
- 11) “Why don’t you be reasonable?”
“The goal of education is to expand the mind. A person’s mind cannot be expanded unless he or she is motivated. There are many ways to motivate a person, but there is only one underlying principle: raise expectations.”
“And with thanks to my family, who might have wished I had been a quicker learner.”
Dr. George J. Thompson
Corrections One: http://www.correctionsone.com/writers/columnists/George-Thompson/
Dr. George J. Thompson on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-George-J-Thompson/261812673873736
One of the most frequent and entrenched forms of conflict in a large organization stems from an element of group dynamics that is largely invisible. Usually, the organization is actually composed of two different groups with different languages, cultures, values and social rules.
We’re not talking about obvious divisions within an organization, like Human Resources, Production, Logistics, Public Relations and what-have you. This goes much deeper.
Almost any group can be categorized as either goal-oriented or longevity-oriented.
Goal-oriented (GO) groups exist to accomplish a mission. Your status with the team is based entirely on your contribution to getting the job done. Hard work, intelligence, and creativity are valued and rewarded.
The ultimate goal-oriented groups are task forces or teams of specialists brought together for a single mission. Next up are tactical teams, like SWAT or special-operations groups.
Longevity-oriented (LO) groups exist to perpetuate the group. Status is based on rank and service to the group. Hard work and intelligence may be rewarded, but they are secondary to making others comfortable. Creativity almost always threatens the status quo, and is almost always discouraged in a longevity-oriented group. Social ritual, whether hazing and initiations or policy and protocol are the lifeblood of the LO group.
A pure group type is very rare. Even an extreme GO team, unless they are assembled for a single mission, will have to deal with training, logistics, and the day-to-day issues of work between missions. Even the most bureaucratic LO team still has some kind of job to do, some mission. They will also occasionally have crises that will require at least a few mission-oriented thinkers.
These types of groups can and must exist within the same organization.
Line staff, be they cops on the beat, emergency room staff, or factory workers, have a job to do: areas patrolled, patients triaged and treated, units off the production line. Failure at the job is measured by what didn’t get done. Line staff tends to be a goal-oriented group.
Administration needs to be longevity oriented. It is their responsibility to make sure the organization survives into the future. Getting the basic job (patrols, patients, product) done is important, but other things can do much more damage. Big lawsuits, lack of funding, negative media exposure can all damage the organization quickly and brutally.
The jobs that administrations must do are very much about relationships. Coordinating or making deals with other organizations and businesses, arranging a budget in a government entity or fighting for a piece of the budget in a company, handling company image.
This naturally extends to a relationship-oriented outlook within the organization as well. The policies and procedures, the meetings, the organizational charts are rituals to identify and maintain a group identity.
Most large organizations will find a profound cultural rift between management and line staff.
The two groups have wildly different ideas of what is important, different ways to communicate. Both groups think they are carrying the entire organization. Line staff know they are getting the job done, and the job is the only reason for the organization to even exist. Administrators know they are the ones keeping the big wheel turning, fending off threats the line staff isn’t even aware of.
Have you ever seen someone promoted who was terrible at the job? From the goal oriented perspective, a promotion is a reward and you reward good behavior and effectiveness on the job is how goal oriented groups define good behavior. When an ineffective worker is promoted, his former colleagues see it as a mistake in management, a sign of managements ignorance of who their good people are, or even as a direct insult to the good workers.
But the people who decided on the promotion were likely longevity oriented. In their mind, a promotion is not a reward. Their job is not to reward or punish anyway, but to balance the dynamics, to put people in the positions where they can best benefit and protect the group. They do not promote Helen because they think she was good on the factory line, they promote Helen because they think she will be good supervising the factory line and interacting with other branches of the organization.
Think about it. Many of the people who were poor at the basic job did well when they were promoted. And many of the hard workers floundered.
This is common and causes a lot of missed opportunities and grief in the business world.
There are individuals who are goal oriented and others who are relationship oriented. Though most will be happiest in a group that matches personal preference, there is extreme value in having a mix.
Goal-oriented people tend to ignore feelings and let a lot of basic relationship maintenance slide. They don’t need company picnics or set up parties to mark big transitions, like promotions and retirements. A purely goal-oriented team can feel pretty sterile. Having a few relationship-oriented members can help build relationships and keep things running smoothly during quiet times. Often a goal-oriented group runs best in crisis and can become very aggravating when things are going well.
The relationship-oriented people who run longevity-oriented groups often need a few goal-oriented people. Why? Partially to keep them on track and remind the team of the need to get the basic job done, but primarily because goal-oriented people tend to respond to crises much better. Solving the problem is usually a better strategy for dealing with disaster than maintaining relationships and protocols.
Often longevity- or goal-oriented people in a group of the other orientation do not understand and can be alienated from their own group. It does no good if you are a manager who can communicate with line staff if you have trouble understanding other managers.
It also helps for each group to have some members that can relate to the other group. Having goal-oriented people in your management team helps facilitate communication with goal-oriented teams.
These two types of groups almost always exist in the same organization. They have different values, and so sometimes they work at cross purposes. They interpret language differently— one of the highest compliments to a GO group is simply to tell them they’re doing a good job. According to “Richard Conniff’s The Ape in The Corner Office to senior administrators, “Good job” is a veiled insult, implying the person needs outside validation. The differences are that profound— an insult in one group is a compliment in the other group.
And, because the organization is a single entity, the presence of two very different groups is invisible.
The dynamic between the GO and LO levels within an organization can be extremely positive or toxic. It is a symbiosis and they need each other. Generally, the organization exists for what the line staff, GO people, do—whether that is fighting crime or producing steel. The customers come to the organization for this.
But organizations exist in a complex community of trade, public opinion, politics, reputation, and relationships. In order to thrive and survive, the organization needs specialists to work these dynamics
At their best, the two levels respect each other.
It becomes toxic when the groups become enemies, when they treat each other with contempt. The most toxic I have seen was a law enforcement agency where the line staff universally believed every member of administration had sought promotion because he or she was afraid to do the job . . . and the administration thought no one would stay on line unless the officer was too stupid to take the tests.
The British Army officer William Francis Butler once said, “The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards.” The toxic version of the LO/GO dynamic exemplifies this.
Well safe spaces are certainly in the news these days, social media and old fashioned media, newspapers, TV and radio, are certainly making us aware that they exist. The whole issue around safe spaces is polarising rapidly, hell I have had to retreat into my room to get this out of my head. Yes I have a room that is just my own, my own little retreat at Smith Towers.
Currently I am sat at my desk typing, I have a really nice leather sofa my wife bought me as it is really cosy for me to take a nap on. I have an exercise bike, my weights and bench and a free standing punch bag. There are lots of books and a ton of training gear and weapons, I like my weapons, although I have moved all my swords and some of my sticks higher up the house.
Its a cool space, quite big with a large bay window overlooking the street. Most of my toys are in here and it has become a bit of a sanctuary. My wife is next door in the lounge listening to some David Bowie on vinyl, it is horrible outside, cold, wet and windy, so today the heating is on an we are tucked up in the warm. We are in our safe space, our home.
In the last week I have taken a lot of bookings for self defence training for next year. Some of the organisations I work for are booking into July and August and another organisation, a very large one, is booking me from January through to March with a hell of a lot more to come in September and October. Things are looking up, a few years back I was really struggling and could have easily given up, but as you can guess it is not in my nature, so onward and upward I hope. It is also fantastic that our self defence and Ju Jitsu training are starting to fill up too, we work damn hard to make it as good as we can then look to see how we can make it better and as I said last month, I have surrounded myself with some incredible people.
And here is the rub, these are people who can disagree, we are not a bunch of sycophants crawling up each others bums. I am pretty strong minded and determined, when I get my teeth into something I tend not to let go. I really can think of nothing worse than inaction. I like to do things, to drive things, to create things. I have a very active, and I like to think, creative mind. I love debates and discussions, I enjoy having my ideas challenged. Edward De Bono, the father of lateral thinking once said, “What is the point of having a mind if you cannot change it”.
That is one of my favourite quotes, but I was not always like this. I remember a discussion in a bar with a few friends and I was listening to them argue over something, what it was is lost, but one of them asked me what I thought. My explanation straddled the two opposing camps views. After I finished he said to me that since I had been to university I could no longer give my opinion on one side or the other as I always had before. You see when I went to college I was 28 years old, not a kid. I had children, I had worked for may years in different occupations, I had, in may ways, ‘been around’.
When I went from the career of an autodidact to entering formal education I was presented with the greatest riches in the world, vast caverns of knowledge were opened up to me, I went in as someone with very strong left wing views, I still had left wing views when I left but exposure to many other viewpoints had changed me. Previously I would have closed down people who spouted ideas or opinions I disliked, the sort of stuff that still goes on, mention immigration and you are a racist, disagree with gay marriage and you are homophobic, your ideas are foul pollutants to the mind of the right thinking people.
Now remember where we started, in my safe space. Well you are welcome to come into that space and to talk, discuss, debate. Threaten me and you may meet one of my toys before I role you unconscious ass out of the door, but my safe space is a space where ideas are welcomed, controversial or not. I have some wonderful friends and family but there is not one that I agree with on every subject. There are some things that are not discussed with certain people because those involved Know they disagree and we can agree to disagree. Where is the problem with that, its how we manage to co-exist. I the last Conflict Manager Marc introduced the work of Jonathan Haidt, he got me to read ‘The Rightous Mind’ earlier this year, I did and agreed with Marc that this was a profound piece of work. It took me right back to my days as a keen as mustard sociology student.
When I discovered sociology in all its complex and contradictory beauty that is when changes started in me that are still evolving today. I was like a sponge at first eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible and I did. The difference between autodidactism, where I grazed widely and freely in the pastures of my own mind, and the formal education I enjoyed at Northern College and the University of Warwick, was that I was now exposed and forced to consider things I would not have done had simply stayed with my own choices. The most wonderful experience of developing the ability to think critically is in my opinion, what separates us from the animals. Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
I remember other students criticising sociobiology, it was the whipping boy of ideas, nonsense, racist sexist, its originator Wilson was pilloried, I felt guilty because I thought there was something in it. I wanted to like it, it was my guilty secret. Advances I understanding the human genome have largely validated most of what Wilson was saying. Haidt’s book on moral psychology is a must read if you want to know what makes us tick. Read it and you will begin to understand yourself more.
Its what I like to do in my safe space. These days I do not go to university or attend many formal learning events, like most people I can now access vast, infinite amounts of information on my laptop and even my phone. However, information is not knowledge. Information has no intrinsic value just by being, it is only of used when it is digested by the brain, turned around, mulled over, looked from different angles, reconstituted and applied. The brain is like any other part of the body, if you do not use it enough it will atrophy.
So when I hear stories of people needing safe spaces so that the can be protected from ideas they do not like, my heart starts to ache. When I hear this from students at universities it makes me really sad. I listened to a really interesting debate on the radio the other day between a feminist blogger and comedienne and a student union official. The former had had a booking to do a show at a prominent UK university cancelled because some students did not like her position on the sex trade. She supports the punters being arrested not the women, so the banned her, she was effectively declared a non person. Yes the thought police have arrived. I listened to much of what was discussed with disbelieve. WTF is wrong with people.
If you are so profoundly weak that the fact that somebody has an idea or political view you do not agree with, that you hide behind rhetorical name calling and censorship, then you surely must kill yourself now before the evil idea can get you. I shudder to think of a world where people like this end up in charge of things, and guess what, if you start to look around you they very often are.
Personally I like to call a spade a spade but am smart enough to know I can do more than just dig with it, go ask Rory about affordances. So for me a safe space is where we are challenged because without challenge we cannot develop as humans, a safe space is not hiding under the bed afraid of the bogeyman, its coming out and confronting the bogeyman. I have a safe space other than the one I am sat in, its behind my two fists and behind me is a safe space for hose I protect. They are the only safe spaces I want. Man up world.
Talking with Sifu Lam about the importance of skill and strength and skill vs strength and how to prioritize my training and he gave me this.
I call it “Lam’s Equation”
10 skills = 1 strength
10 strengths = 1 will
I understood the 10 skills = 1 strength piece. You simply need a skill advantage to beat a larger stronger opponent. If you don’t think size and strength are factors then you are living a dangerous misconception.
I was confused on will, I took it as meaning heart.
A fighter who has heart just keeps going, tired, hurt, losing … he presses on, but that’s not what he meant by will.
He said it meant having a real reason to fight.
I was teaching a women’s self defense seminar when one woman walked away from the practice and just sat down.
I asked her if she was OK, she said ” I’m fine, I just don’t know why I’m here. I’m never going to be able to beat a man, they’re just stronger.”
I said “What if he is trying to rape of kill you?”
She replied “Read the papers, women get raped and killed everyday.”
The group had heard this and I could feel the moral drop.
I knew this woman personally and knew she had two daughters ( 8 & 10 ) so i asked her “What would you do if someone was trying to rape and kill one of your kids?”
She pretty much snapped, her posture went from defeated and hopeless to something unstoppable and crazy, scary and said “I’d ****ing kill them.”
OK, so what happened to change things? Why is it what she couldn’t possibly do for herself was something unquestionable for her kids? Not to sound cheesy but the answer is unconditional love for her kids, she had a real reason to fight.
So I told her “Think about what would happen to your kids if someone killed you. How would your death effect them ? Who would raise them ? You need to tell yourself I’m going to be there for my kids, I’m going to watch them grow up and be there for birthday parties, Christmas present, graduations, get married and I’m going to hold my grand kids and nobody is going to take that away from me.”
I took a few things away from that experience.
1. Don’t fight unless you have a real reason, if only for the fact that you wont fight your best ( not to mention legalities ).
2. Why couldn’t she tap into that for herself ? My thought is she ( we ) don’t love ourselves unconditionally.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe because we know all our short comings, even the stuff we’d probably never tell anyone, so maybe we feel unworthy of it. As for your children, well they can have all kinds of faults and we still love them unconditionally.
3. How could she ( we ) tap into that strength? You tell yourself this person has no right to take you away from your family.
Love or Fear
Making eye contact is something we do many times each day, and we may not even realize it but we all use it to communicate, consciously or not. Eye contact is a subset of body language and this article is meant to be an introduction to this language and how it works, with a particular focus on how it pertains to the art of self-protection.
There are excerpts here from my book “What the Bully Doesn’t Want You to Know – A Streetwise Guide to Your Bully Problem”. The book itself is focused on bully problems which children face and is written for kids and their parents. Neither the book nor this article are designed to be comprehensive works on body language, but a beginning. The reason for this article is that virtually all of what is written on body language is extremely broad and most of the material is not pertinent to self-protection or potential conflict situations.
I will expand on the material from the book to include information about adult interactions. The fundamentals are the same as they are for children and have added nuances for adults.
Let’s start with some basics. What we are talking about here is only the first few moments of eye contact. Virtually all adults realize there is far more to extended eye contact and the cues which can be learned from watching someone. Our instincts can indicate whether someone might be lying, in a bad mood, nervous, troubled, or any of a vast number of things. Let’s begin with the first impression we create when we make eye contact.
The importance of eye contact is hard to overstate. It is almost always the first contact we have with someone else. The eyes really are the window to your soul. The way you look at people, or don’t, tells them something about you.
Quickly lowering your eyes when you make eye contact with someone is a basic animal signal of submission and fear. This signal indicates to that person that you are weak, or at least that you think you are weaker than them. Animals reflect their ‘pecking order’ by showing signs of submission to those higher on the order than themselves. Lowering the head, and eyes, is a prime signal of submission. It is usually an unconscious response, but with a little practice you can learn to send a signal of confidence to those around you.
First, let’s define what you should and should not do. We have already indicated that quickly lowering your eyes and head down and away from someone is submissive. So, don’t do that. Almost everyone has done this, and it is a very common habit. So what should you do? If you find you have locked eyes with someone who you feel is threatening (or just about anyone else for that matter) it is a good idea to hold their gaze for a second. And we do mean a second literally, as in one-one thousand. Holding a gaze, or staring, for several seconds or longer can be construed as a challenge. It is possible to gather a lot of information about someone in one second. Once you have held their gaze for a second, move your eyes away calmly in a HORIZONTAL direction. This sends the message to someone that you see them, and you are unafraid. In others words, you are not being submissive.
Practicing this is actually rather easy. Simply go out and do it. Here is how:
Try it a few times in the mirror. You don’t have to go overboard here; just try to get the hang of what a confident gaze looks like for you.
Start with your friends to get the hang of it. By the way, they don’t even have to know you are doing it. You might be surprised at how they react.
Next, move on to strangers or anyone else who makes you uncomfortable. This should be a little difficult at first. You want to get used to feeling uncomfortable so that it ceases to be uncomfortable at all anymore. This can be done just about anywhere. A good place to practice is in a car where people are naturally reticent about looking at the person next to them.
Continue practicing this until you have made a habit of it.
You are on the way to controlling the message you send with your eyes.
If there was one thing you should recognize when it comes to reading someone else’s eyes, it is what is called the ‘hard stare’. The hard stare is a determined look that someone is mentally prepared for a fight. It is a reflection of what has gone on in their mind, locking out distractions and trivialities, focusing purely on the task at hand which is intently watching the target.
The hard stare is easy to recognize and will probably flip a subconscious mental trigger in you that something is wrong. The stare itself is identified by the eyes being open slightly wider than usual and lack of blinking. The eyes will lock on the target and not stray. The facial muscles and chin will tighten with a stony expression, which looks more like pure determination than anger. Once you see a hard stare you will recognize it instantly. It means the decision has been made and the eyes are issuing the challenge. This is a clear sign saying “I am ready to fight you right now.” You should treat this signal as what it is: a very clear signal of imminent threat.
Along with the stare, usually the aggressive party will usually stand up or already be standing. You’ll notice the body will go into a fairly prepared stance with the knees bent and the chest will face the target. Again, this is how the brain subconsciously prepares for battle. The time for sweet talking is over and you should either calmly depart or prepare quickly for a fight. This means get near an exit, with as many friends as possible, and among cover to keep from being surrounded.
Those first moments of eye contact will leave an impression, we cannot help that. What we can do is make sure we are sending the right message, not one which looks inviting to a potential predator. We wish to send the message that we are not prey by not using the same body language that prey uses.
You could call this the external benefit of eye contact: how others see you from the outside. Next we will cover the internal aspect, which is the benefit you receive when you learn to use your eyes well.
m time to time. If you are sitting hunched over a book or cell phone and glance up momentarily and down, then you are missing two points: posture and observation. These two should work together.
Keep good body posture whether you are standing or sitting and scan regularly. Take your time scanning and don’t rush it. Anyone looking at you will quickly be able to tell which is more important to you: looking around or not paying attention to surroundings. It is okay to be absorbed in a book or texting with someone, but go to a place where you are safe to do so and look up and around frequently.
It is very common to watch for people when you know they might be present, and it is almost always someone you already know to be a potential threat. Kids who are around bullies learn to watch for their bully through pure fear. They are constantly scanning so they can see them coming and get out early.
One thing to add here, which is something more common to adults than children, is that purposefully not making eye contact is also a signal. Take care not to think that this is imperceptible because it is. If a potential predator looks at you and you are intentionally avoiding eye contact, he will very likely be able to tell. This is a signal of pure fear, which is not the signal you want to send. A confident person does not fear making eye contact.
Once you make eye contact, what you are thinking is pretty easily conveyed through your facial expressions. I’m not talking mind reading here, but simple mood and attitude. What is on your mind will affect the signals you are sending, so take care of what is on your mind. Be smart, not oblivious – confident, not fearful. This type of communication is fascinating, but not within the scope of this article.
What we take in about our surroundings and the people within it is crucial to avoiding trouble. You can think of it this way: your goal is to see trouble before it sees you. A predator decides when and where he will strike, which is powerful. Predators will avoid targets which are aware (hard to approach undetected) and do not look like good opportunities. They will dismiss inviting targets which are not in a good place or time to strike. The first indicator is eye contact or lack thereof. An unobservant target is very inviting. You might never even make direct eye contact with a predator. He may very well dismiss you as a potential target merely because he sees you scanning the area, staying aware, and appearing ready. It is so much better to avoid being targeted early than try to evade a predator who has already chosen you as a target.