Matrix Download Syndrome, Part III – Marc MacYoung

Part I

Let’s go back to the two college rape scenarios, drunken frat rats and walking alone. The mouse—who accepts moving in groups, not walking alone at night, doesn’t incapacitate herself through booze, or who at a party doesn’t go off into isolation with a frat rat to score more free alcohol—is in far less danger from either threat than her ‘more confident’ equals. I have known many party girls who have gotten themselves raped engaging in those listed high-risk behavior. As horrible as you might find this, they were still safer than Krav Chick. While I didn’t know her, her response, “But that could kill me,” tells me a lot. As in I can tell you that with the risks she was taking, she was the one who was most likely to get killed. And she didn’t even know it.

Conversely—like the mouse—someone who is willing to gouge someone’s eyeball out of his head while trying to tear out his throat with her teeth is at much lower risk. Why? Because both know there are circumstances they don’t want to be in. Therefore, they’re not going to put themselves into them. And if they find themselves there, they’ll do what it takes to get the hell out. (One, run fiercely; the other, whatever level of violence is necessary.)


It’s the person who thinks they can do what they want and nobody has the right to touch them who is in the most danger. That’s because they’re too slow to get out of the situation. Maybe they’re not at risk of dying, but they leave themselves open to all kinds of other nastiness especially if because of a little training, they think they aren’t afraid to hit. Ineffective violence only encourages a higher level of attack. Unfortunately, training these types in physical technique just encourages this attitude. Like deciding walking alone late at night is okay because she knows Krav Maga. (That is if this training isn’t empowering dysfunction—which is another problem [if not article] altogether.) Such a person will walk right into trouble—without the resources to get out of it. And odds are good she walked into it because nobody gave her nuts-and-bolts information on how to avoid it.

One of the major problems about teaching people who have always had the ability to walk away is their willingness to hit (or stab or shoot) is often a one-way street. News flash: Violence hurts (even if you win). If you aren’t willing to pay that price, odds are you’re going to try to fold when it starts hurting. That’s trying to fold in a situation where you can’t leave—because it’s too late.

Inherent in most modern day people’s thinking is, “If I don’t like it, I’ll leave.” Stop and think about this. How many people do you know who have left marriages, jobs, families, changed careers, relocated, etc.? How about yourself? These are the people who are asking, “But what if I can’t leave?” They have no idea what that really means.

Now mind you, this ‘leaving’ attitude has become far more rampant now that belonging to a group is more of a hobby than a survival requirement. But are they willing to bite off ears, gouge out eyes, break bones, much less kill someone to come out the other side? Again, if not, why are you teaching them physical techniques, especially ineffective levels of violence—like strikes?

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself, what does the ability to leave a situation do to our levels of commitment? To our development of coping mechanisms? Mental resiliency (find a way to deal with it versus running away)? To our willingness to do whatever we have to? And most importantly, our ability to recognize when we actually can’t leave a situation?

That last one is a really subtle, but important, question. In most situations, people can safely withdraw (but if you escalate just a little bit, you’ll ‘win’). That’s wildly different from a situation where—if it develops fully—the only way to not be victimized is to tear someone’s throat out with your teeth. Recognizing such a situation is critical to draw up the commitment necessary to do horrible things in order to survive.

Do your students (or you for that matter) even know what such situations look like while developing? Do they know how to tell when one has stepped into your life already fully formed? Do you expect your students to recognize such a situation if all you do is give it a hand wave? And that brings us to: Do they (or you) have the commitment to do it? If the answer to the last four questions is no—all the techniques in the world are useless.

With this in mind, would they not be better served being taught things they can do right then—much less be willing to do? How about telling when it’s time to go berserk (like when someone tries to take you to a secondary location)? Or when it’s time to let it go and walk away? (With a subcategory of: Is that guy who is threatening you physically walking away? Hint, don’t pull the trigger.)

Because people who for all their lives have had the ability to leave (and chose to do so) aren’t likely to be able to magically muster the ability and commitment to do what is necessary. Nor do they tend to come up with good use of force decisions. They will have found themselves in circumstances where they can’t leave, but they have no idea of the resources required to survive. Often, they will attempt to halfheartedly use techniques they vaguely remember. That seldom works out well.

Recently, I commented that gouging someone’s eye out was easy. The hard part was to know when it was time to do that and teaching people the commitment to do so. The responses were … interesting.

First, there were numerous stories about eye pokes failing. Now mind you, there’s a difference between an eye poke and gouging somebody’s eyeball out of his skull. Kind of like the difference between a domesticated dog and a wolverine.

Second, there was much pontificating about how difficult eye gouges were in a fur-ball situation. Oh really? Is it difficult or was it because you just weren’t committed to ripping his eyeball out and throwing it on the ground? Because with commitment, it’s really effective and pretty easy to do.

Third, to support these contentions, people referred a big name MMA fighter who said eye gouges weren’t effective against a committed opponent. Funny . . . while I don’t have as much ring experience as he does, I’ve found going in as if it’s foreplay for attempting to skullf**k the guy to death has a really impressive track record—at least in the streets. That and twisting the ocular nerve really makes ’em squeak. Most folks really just don’t have the commitment to keep on playing when it’s happening to them.

Fourth, there were people who immediately started quoting maiming laws to me. I can only assume it was to scare me. Didn’t I at least imply knowing when to do it was kind of important? (“Why did you maim him?” “Because he was trying to kill or inflict grievous bodily injury on me at the time.”) In other words, we’re talking lethal force would be justified, but you lack the means. So you maim to stop an attack that would maim or kill you.

Fifth—and perhaps most fascinating—was the automatic scaling back of the idea to their comfort zone. Notice that I very specifically stated gouging out someone’s eyeball. Not poke, not stick your finger into it, not spit, not throw sand in their eyes. Nothing half-committed, I’m talking a level of commitment where someone’s eyeball is going to be left swinging past their nose because the alternative is you being left lying there, unable to get up and walk away. Yet those reduced versions were the only things the commentators could imagine. They weren’t talking survival; they were framing things in terms of fighting.

Here’s a problem with what they were imagining. They’re right. Half committed moves tend to fail. In plain old fights, I’ve seen eye pokes and even attempted gouges fail—because pain alone often isn’t enough. But what works is entirely beyond their comfort zones.

As someone who has been in various degrees of self-defense situations (from punched to shot at) I found these reactions somewhat disturbing, especially in light of many of the commentator’s promoted themselves as self-defense instructors—who had no idea how savage things can get in violence.

Are you beginning to see a potential problem with trying to teach physical self-defense to people with neither the commitment nor mental fortitude to do whatever is necessary? Sure, teaching weak physical techniques that students—hopefully—will never use may boost their self-confidence that in a day-to-day, social interaction, job, and relationship context is a good thing. But it’s not self-defense. In fact—like it did with Krav Chick—it can result in overconfidence and an increase in high-risk behavior.

So my question is: Why aren’t you teaching people—who all their lives have been able to leave—how to safely withdraw from a situation? Why are you trying to teach them to stay there and shoot or use martial art punches and kicks? Instead of trying to boost their confidence, why aren’t you teaching people simple, real life, safety measures they can use right then?

Enough hand waving. People’s lives are depending on what you’re teaching them. And that must be effective information for whom—and where—they are now. So make what you teach closer to what they can do, not what they fantasize they can do.

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