Bullying in Germany, Part I – Rory Miller

Had a nice conversation with a young mother in Germany. From her perspective, primary schools and kindergartens are becoming more violent and the teachers do nothing. If a victim reports an act of bullying, the victim either gets in trouble or is called a tattletale and shamed for reporting.

Are schools actually more violent?

Two reasons why what you hear may not be what is there:

The first is that reporting on violence does not equal violence. The first time I tracked this, there was a period (and, sorry, can’t be more specific. I’m an old man who’s had a lot of concussions, so it’s better not to trust my memory) anyway, during this period, violent crime dropped by 10%, while reporting on violent crime rose 300%. So people experienced a 10% drop in violence but were exposed to a tripling in the violence they heard about. People felt that crime was skyrocketing and that contributed greatly to the tough-on-crime legislation that followed.

Same with bullying. My kids experienced significantly less physical (and I think verbal) violence and bullying than was common in my time. Bullying has always been endemic, but when reporting on bullying became a fad it sounded like the bullying itself had skyrocketed.

The second factor is that where we set the bar for violence has shifted. The mom I talked to said her son is attacked every other day. Bruises? No. Bloody noses? No. If a push or a threat is considered violence now and it wasn’t when I was a kid, it will look like violence is rising because we throw more things under the label. So caveat lector.

There is a third spoiler, and one that people who use government statistics have to be very wary of. Bureaucracies have become increasingly sophisticated. Many have learned that you can affect the statistics directly. The zero-tolerance policies in US schools mean that the victim who reports an act of violence is also punished for partaking in a violent act. Punish the reporters and the crime won’t get reported. Voila, reported acts of bullying have dropped to almost zero.

Want to eliminate reported rape? Send the victims to jail if they report. Then no one will report and, according to the bureaucracies’ paperwork, the crime will no longer exist.*

Bullying has always existed. It exists in animals. Bullying is not the strong preying on the weak, it is the strong showing their power by toying with the weak. The reason it always happens is because kids, as a rule, have very little power, so when they find some, they revel in it. Affecting the world and expressing power are the same thing. And it feels good. Creating art, or building a bookshelf or finishing an article all feel good and all affect the world. And the same with breaking things. When a kid learns that he can make another child cry, that is power. And it feels good. A lot of socialization is teaching kids not to use that power.

Fighting and bullying.

Fighting first. Being raised rural and blue-collar, fighting was just something boys did. We learned it was fun, we learned that it hurt. It also had consequences. Every family was a little different but there were types of fights you would be praised for (defending your younger sibling from being picked on) and others you would get in trouble for (being a bully and losing***.)

So you learned, over time, what was worth fighting for and how to regulate damage.

Bullying. The strong pick on the weak. But the strongest up through high school were always the adults, the teachers. Stronger, bigger, more experienced (because most of my instructors had also been raised in an environment where fighting was an acceptable, normal skill) the teachers would win. If they saw a fight going too far, they would grab whoever was winning by the scruff of the neck and throw him (usually a him) across the room.

It was a rare expression of adult power, but it had a message: No matter how big or tough you were, there was someone bigger and tougher. Anything you did to your victims could be done to you.

And in that was a huge lesson. Maturity, being adult, was about having power and not using it. At least not using it to dominate others. And there was a smaller lesson as well: There are times when it is fully appropriate to use force, like when stopping people from victimizing others.

This process eventually, for most, grew into a healthy socialization about power and violence. It wasn’t perfect, of course. Diversity means that a one-size-fits-all answer will always be wrong. But this approach had evolved over millennia and worked pretty well

Two expressions from this era: “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” “How do you think you would feel if I did to you what you did to him?” Encapsulated that socialization process. This system actually builds empathy.

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


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.

Interview with Rory Miller Part 1 – 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.

EE – What’s your martial arts background?

RM – Mother was a fencer and dad was a boxer and bar brawler, but that probably doesn’t count. Started in judo in 1981 when I went to college. Dabbled in everything available. Stumbled onto Sosuishitsu-ryu jujutsu when my wife (fiancé at the time) and I moved to Portland. I stayed with Dave, (my jujutsu sensei) until he retired and earned my mokuroku in 1991. During that time I was playing with everything I could. Martial arts was an obsession.

EE – What’s your professional background?

RM – How far back do you want to go? I’ve been a ranch hand, a porter, a dishwasher, picked strawberries– but the first job I had that included using force was bouncing in a casino in Reno in 1985 and 86. It was an education.

I went back to college after that and worked my way through with security jobs. Nothing particularly dangerous, just facility security for high-tech offices. Also joined the National Guard in 86. Went to Basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training). I was a medic assigned to a self-sufficient TOW anti-armor unit.

Kuwait was invaded in 1990. Our intel said that Saddam Hussein had 5000 of the best (soviet) tanks made. I was in an airmobile, desert trained, anti-tank unit. I was 100% sure that I’d be in Kuwait, so my fiancé and I decided to get married immediately. The army doesn’t provide benefits to fiancés if a soldier gets killed.

Then the first air strikes pretty much wiped out the Iraqi armoured divisions. We were waiting for the call, but my unit wasn’t activated. And suddenly it hit me— I’m married. I have a baby on the way. So I started looking for a real job. The first one that came through was for the County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division. I took the job. And just like that, I was a jail guard.

Have to explain jails vs. prisons, since most of your audience is European. In the US, and there is some variation between the states, we have two different correctional systems. Prisons are for people who have been convicted of a crime and are serving a sentence of more than a year. Jails are where we hold people who have not yet been convicted— but are usually too dangerous to be out on the streets until trial— or people who have been sentenced to less than one year’s time or, and I think this is specific to my state, people who are on their last year of a longer sentence.

In jails, we would get the same people who would go to prison as well as some that wouldn’t, and we would get them while they were freshly arrested. Still angry, still with drugs in their system.

I spent the next seventeen years working there. A lot of time in booking (where we got our most fights) and in Close custody and maximum security. After I became a sergeant, I spent more time working mental health. I was a trainer as an extra duty and was on the CERT as well, first as a member, later as team leader.

Around 2008, I was recruited to go to Iraq as a contractor advising the Iraqi Corrections Service. Did that for a little over a year and came back to settle down, teach and write.

EE – What was the kind of violence you experienced in your professional life?

RM – It varied within a set of parameters. A lot of breaking up fights. A few inmates trying to monkey dance or educational beat down. Probably the most common was someone who wanted a reputation. Ambushes. A riot. Cleaning up a riot. A few planned set-ups.

Most were unarmed, because our contraband control was pretty good, but there were a few memorable ones involving shanks, fist loads and most commonly, flails (a pad lock or several bars of soap in a pillow case.) Several with people who were psychotic, some with full-blown excited delirium.

EE – What lead you to the warrior’s way?

RM – I don’t think I can express how much I despise that word. If you have served as a soldier in a war zone (I haven’t— I have been a soldier and been in a war zone, but not at the same time) you were a warrior. If you have never been a soldier in a war zone, calling yourself a “warrior” is just as despicable as any other type of stolen valour.

I studied martial arts at first to improve myself and then because I loved the training.

I went into a force profession purely to feed my family and discovered I was good at it.


On Aggression – Rory Miller and Terry Trahan

Authors’ note: This is deep water stuff. Mimir’s Well stuff. We have done our best to make it understandable to people who may not have had certain experiences, but odds are some words have come to mean different things to us.

One example: For almost everyone, “smart” implies your ability to retain and apply information. For us, “smart” means your ability to recognize the situation and adapt to it. And that usually involves rejecting irrelevant information. In the normal world, a “smart” fighter will know a thousand techniques and the nuances of self-defense law. In our world a “smart” fighter forgets all but the handful of techniques he or she needs in the moment and understands that under SD law your options are either none, graded, or unfettered, and knows where those thresholds are. In the common world, a smart fighter is expected to be cognitively engaged. In our world a smart fighter is expected to reject that. Sort of.

“You have to be aggressive.”

“You have to tap into your rage.”

“The winning mindset is righteous indignation.”

We’ve all heard variants of this theme. To a professional, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Aggression is an emotion, and emotional fighters make mistakes. Aggressive people get into unnecessary conflicts. They walk into set-ups. When they do fight and prevail, they often continue– aggressive fighters can easily turn a legitimate use of force into assault.

Within a very limited scope, aggression makes sense. For novices at violence one of the big problems, maybe the biggest, is getting them to act at all. Despite years of training, in the first encounter, the hindbrain knows that training is unreal, and wants to use tactics that have evolved over millennia, like freezing. Also, the trained knowledge that one must act with force runs head-on into the social conditioning that ‘force is wrong’ and one ‘should be polite.’ In the brain, conditioning trumps training.

Encouraging and tapping into emotion is one way to bridge this gap. People will do things for “feelz” that they won’t do under objective need.

Here’s a potential language problem, because what professionals use can look an awful lot like aggression and is frequently even called aggression, but it is a different thing. It is decisiveness.

Decisiveness encompasses explosive motion, violence of action, speed of perception, processing and execution, all working towards a goal. The difference between decisiveness and aggression is that decisiveness is aimed at an objective, professional goal: to escape or to disable or to handcuff or to… Aggression is aimed at an internal goal. An emotional goal. Usually to assuage fear. As a rule, novices use force because they are afraid, they use as much force as their fear dictates and they continue to use force until the fear dissipates.

In a word, aggression makes you stupid, not decisive.

And this goes into language again, because being stupid is generally safer and more effective than being passive. And if you equate stupid with uncivilized, well, most civilized people don’t fight very well.

People (talking students here) tend to be very out-of-touch with the emotional intensity of physical conflict. Because of that, most people misread their own emotional intensity. For example, the person who was insulted and felt such a huge rage that years later he talks about the darkness within him, and never grasped that he didn’t actually do a damn thing. Or the common advice that if you want a student to be assertive, you usually have to instruct that student to be aggressive.

On that level, “Be aggressive” might be excellent advice.

For students.

When you are aggressive, you will use the highest force option available* to you and you will use it a lot. As a rule you will also use it inefficiently. When you are using an emotion as the basis and motivator for your action, it becomes entirely too easy to go overboard, perceive things as dangerous that aren’t, and not know when it is time to stop. A force professional must be in control during every step—the initiation of action, the scale of force used and when the forces ceases. Often, when to stop is the hardest call, especially when emotions take over. Violence is a tool to achieve an end, whether keeping peace in a jail, safeguarding people, or throwing drunks out, it is a tool to do a job. When you are based in emotion, that stopping point is not as obvious.

Our experience is that lower levels of force applied decisively are more effective than higher levels of force applied emotionally. Aggression is a very easy trip to the land of excessive force and decisiveness is not. When you decide, you are in control, when you react with emotion, you are riding a train that is not driven by your rational mind.

Essentially, decisiveness may not be accessible to novices and so there is some utility in emphasizing aggressiveness and rage. However, it is only a doorway to reach the ability to be decisive. Decisiveness gives you all of the benefits of aggression without the pitfalls.

*Available both physically and emotionally. When an armed officer goes into a feeding frenzy with a baton, his firearm was available physically, but not emotionally.

Fighters Time – Rory Miller

I was teaching a class for writers about realistic violence. One of the students said, “You think about time differently than anyone I’ve ever known.”I hadn’t realized it but, yeah.

Fighters think about time differently. For most people, as near as I can tell, they think of time as a medium they move through. They are in time the way a fish is in flowing water. They move through it, always in one direction. Or, more accurately, it flows past them continuously.

Fighters see it as a resource. Time can be spent or wasted. It can be borrowed and stolen. It can be invested.

When I give you false information, like feinting, I force you to spend/waste time figuring it out and responding. I have stolen time from you. When I concentrate on getting the job done, putting the bad guy in handcuffs, I spend time. When I think for even a second about possible complaints, that second is wasted. Training is an investment in time now that may pay off in a single incident years from now.

We learn this in fighting but apply it to the rest of our lives. Investing in healthy habits, skills and education at a young age pays off forever. If I wouldn’t waste a fraction of a second in a fight, why would I waste hours with someone I don’t enjoy.

And stolen moments are awesome.

Time is Life

Murder is nothing but stealing time. Kill a young adult and you have stolen fifty or more years of their time. Fifty years they will never experience, fifty years of amazing things they will never do or see. And time-theft is an especially heinous crime because the killer doesn’t get any of that time himself. It is completely wasted.

But turn it around. Wasting other people’s time is slowly killing, taking minutes and hours in dribs and drabs that they can never get back. If time is life, then wasting time is murder.

And wasting your own time is suicide.

Chaos Management

You’ve probably heard the grappling saying, “Position before submission.” The idea is that it is much easier to submit an opponent (to win) from a position of advantage, so time is usually better spent improving your position than going for the quick win. I don’t categorize this as a winning strategy. Thing is, if luck (a handmaiden to chaos) presents me an early, easy win from a weak position, I’ll definitely take it.

It may not be a winning, strategy, but it is a winner’s strategy. When things are going well for you, you want to minimize chaos, minimize the role that luck will play in the future. When things are going well, you want to better your position. When things are not going well…

Chaos and uncertainty usually is an advantage to the person in the weakest position. This is common sense— things continuing as they have been will obviously serve those who have been successful under those conditions. The only reason the word is “usually” instead of “always” is that the person in the weaker position must have the mindset and the resources to exploit the chaos.

To manage chaos, the mindset needs adaptability based on awareness of the situation and interactions of the components; and a willingness to act, without the possibility of knowing the outcome. This is sometimes called courage. But no mindset will compensate if luck breaks when you are too weak or damaged to act.

Rock Bottom

Within the context of Fighter’s Time. You have hit rock bottom when you have nothing to lose. When death is certain— whether a stranglehold from a true enemy (7-9 seconds left) shot in the heart (roughly ten seconds left) a pistol aimed at your head with a finger tightening on a trigger (maybe two seconds left, probably less) or trapped in a burning skyscraper (minutes)— you have nothing to lose.

If that strangle hold is on, you have nothing to lose by holding tight and throwing yourself (and your attached assailant) in front of a truck. Correction, you have a fistful of seconds to lose. Your enemy has much more. Chaos management from rock bottom is recognizing this. There are four basic outcomes:

  • You die and the threat does not. This is what was going to happen anyway. You only lose 7 seconds.
  • You die and the threat dies. You were going to die anyway, but the threat doesn’t get away with it.
  • Neither dies. This is where you started but it’s damn likely the stranglehold is gone and the playing field is more equal.
  • You live and the threat dies. You might be injured, but this is the best outcome.

The worst possible outcome is where you started. From rock bottom, things can only get better.

Discretionary Time

I learned this concept from Gordon Graham, but I doubt if he ever applied it to fighting. And that’s fine, because it’s a valuable concept in almost any situation.

In a nutshell, discretionary time are the moments where you have choices. Outside of emergencies, that’s almost all of life. In emergencies is when the ability to recognize discretionary time becomes a superpower.

In every emergency field, one of the biggest differences between the rookies and the veterans is how they see and exploit time. When a rookie gets challenged and threatened, he feels he has to do something. When a veteran gets challenged, he appreciates that a warning gives him time— time to evaluate, time to plan, time to access resources. Conversely, when a rookie gets jumped, his first thought is often, “I’m under attack! I need a plan!” Planning takes time and under assault, time is damage. The veteran under attack moves. He or she knows that you can only plan when there is time to plan.

Planning takes discretionary time, under attack there is no discretionary time.


Re-Thinking Resistance Part III – Rory Miller

Real Life Levels of Resistance

Professionals and people who train professionals must understand the levels of resistance thoroughly. The level of danger and the dynamics of the force situation determine what is appropriate. Using too little force will get one hurt, using too much force gets one sued.

For civilian self-defense instructors as well, it is imperative to understand how different the body mechanics and psychology of different real-life attacks can be from any sport, training, or simulation experience. Overcoming a high level of resistance is very different than overcoming a low level of resistance.

Cooperative, compliant (and undecided.)

Cooperative and compliant are not really levels of resistance. I list them to remind professionals that there are levels that require no force. If you say, “Sorry, folks, but this street is closed off. We have a situation.”

And the person says, “Oh. Thank you officer,” and takes another route, that person is cooperative. If the person grumbles, “Dammit, now I’m gonna be late,” and takes another route, the person is still compliant. These are the good guys. The citizens you are sworn to protect. They are not targets for force or shows of authority. Never bully your allies.

The undecided threat should rarely, if ever, go to force. As a rule, if you address an undecided threat and it goes to force, you fucked it up. You shifted it from undecided to resisting.

An undecided threat can present in a number of different ways and can be triggered in different ways.

The two most common versions of undecided threat that a professional will face are the coward and the indignant.

The coward will become a physical threat if and only if he thinks he can get away with it. An officer who maintains good presence, awareness, and control of space leaves the coward with no opening. Without an opening, most cowards will comply and many will shift to cooperative, sucking up. Don’t lower your guard,

The indignant will fight if they can find an excuse— if they see something in your demeanor or hear something in your words that lets them blame you. A “hook” is an excuse to blame the victim that triggers and rationalizes an act of violence. That’s not just for undecided against a professional. Many violent people like to have a justification, to be able to say, “The bitch was askin’ for it.”

The solution for professionals is to be professional. Doing a job impartially and fairly leaves no hooks. Understand, however, that this applies only to the undecided. People who have already decided to be violent will find, manufacture, or imagine hooks to justify their violence. Look at any riot.

That said, if you’re a dick you can set off an undecided. If you’re a big enough dick, you can shift a compliant or even cooperative person through undecided and into full-on resistance. You might do the paperwork and file the charges, but don’t fool yourself. Shifting a good person to a bad person with your attitude is entirely on you.

Passive Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No” and turns away. The protesters sit down and refuse to move. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas.

In passive resistance, the threat’s not a danger to anyone, is not threatening you and is not even using muscle power. It’s a level of resistance rarely addressed in training and it often has complex ramifications. When is making your child eat peas abuse? What level of force will play well on TV when used on people who are not a physical threat but clearly breaking the law?

This level of resistance rarely comes up in self-defense. There’s no need to defend yourself from a non-attack. But for people who have a duty to act this is a common problem.

Active Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No. You can’t make me” and wraps his arms around a pillar. The protesters sit down and lock arms. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas and covers his mouth with both hands.

In active resistance, the threat is still not a threat, still not a danger. The only difference is that the threat is now using muscle power to resist, but not using that power on you. This is the bad guy who runs away, not the bad guy who attacks.

The questions and problems are similar— when and if you have a duty to act, what is the appropriate level of force to overcome very real but not dangerous physical resistance?

Assaultive Resistance.

This is the level of resistance that inspired my initial rant on the Myth of the Fully-Resisting Opponent. This is the other side of the coin from training’s full resistance. This is someone trying to take you out. The threat has chosen time, place and victim. Has stacked everything in his favor—size, numbers, weapons, surprise— and will attack with absolute ruthlessness, speed and power. He gives no thought to defense because he fully expects that his onslaught will prevent you from doing anything he might have to defend against.

Assaults happen faster, harder, closer and with more speed than most practitioners can imagine. Until you have experienced it these words will have no meaning, but your hardest training for the most intense mixed martial art competition is as relevant for an assault as non-contact point sparring is for MMA. Or to put it another way, kickboxing helps with rape defense about as much as being raped will help with your kickboxing.

The nature of assault starts with a bigger, stronger opponent, who has a tool (and you don’t) from behind or the flank and with you psychologically off-guard. It is nothing like sparring at any level.

Lethal Resistance.

Lethal resistance has all of the elements of assaultive resistance but with one other factor: the goal is not to beat you into submission, but to kill you. Sometimes it will start as an assault but with the intent to kick your head into mush afterwards. Other times it is a cold-blooded assassination. Just a knife in your back, quick and clean, with the perpetrator walking away as if nothing happened.

Whether the intent is assaultive or lethal, the bad guy has made the decision to take no chances. That means he has done everything in his power to give you no chance.

Asymmetrical Resistance.

Asymmetrical resistance is probably the most common level of resistance and the least discussed or trained. Violence and exploitation happen in the real world, and the real world is immensely complex. There are many ways to victimize a person and many ways to punish a target for attempts to stand up.

Asymmetrical resistance can take many forms, from exerting psychological control to prevent you from physically resisting to invoking third party intervention against you.

“My brother’s upstairs with your kids. One peep out of you and he shoots them. Do what I say and don’t make a sound.”

“You can’t hit me back.  I have AIDS!”

“Hello, Joan, I’m the director of human resources and we’ve had a complaint. Did you tell Frank that he was standing too close to you and making you feel uncomfortable? You did? Well, he’s filed a hostile workplace complaint…”

In real life, whoever plays the game the most broadly has the advantage. Seeing self-defense as either physical skills or reactive skills (see the article “Self Defense Failure Zone” Conflict Manager  May 2016 https://conflictresearchgroupintl.com/self-defense-failure-zone-rory-miller-conflict-manager-may-2016/) is inherently limiting. Your goal is to use and see the situation more broadly than any would-be predator.

Re-Thinking Resistance Part II – Rory Miller

Sports Resistance.

Sports resistance is what you will get in competition. It isn’t full resistance, no matter what you tell yourself. In any competition, there is a balance between trying to win and trying not to lose. The desire to win requires taking some risks and those risks create vulnerabilities.

Full Resistance.

Full resistance is an unbalanced version of sports resistance. This is when a competitor focuses entirely on defense, putting all of his or her energy into denying your technique with no offensive attempts at all. It can be frustrating to face, and sometimes it’s a trap, cf Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy.

Specific Resistance.

The resistance levels in this essay are arranged in order of difficulty, not in order of applicability. The last seven levels have mirrored a progression from training to sport. But this last, hardest level goes back to training and specifically to bad training.

Specific resistance only occurs when a specific technique is expected. It is always an egotistic power play. Any technique— throw, strike, lock, stab, combo, whatever— can always be made to fail if the practitioner knows what is coming and chooses to directly resist. When a beginners is learning the basics of a lock, anyone can disrupt his or her process. Even when an expert is demonstrating a technique, the technique can be disrupted. A boxer demonstrating a response to a jab will almost always get nailed if his partner feints the jab and throws a hook.

Specific resistance is extremely unrealistic. Outside of training you will never have both foreknowledge and an agreement not to adapt. It is a pure training artifact, but it is very easy to laugh off, “Are you saying I attacked you wrong?”

There are two advanced versions of specific resistance that can ruin a lesson or even harm an entire system.

The first is Gaming the Drill.

People are naturally competitive. Often an egotistic partner, instructor, or role player will not let a solution work. A role player might simply choose to never let de-escalation succeed. A partner who sneaks a weapon into a grappling drill. A scenario facilitator who punishes a student for the safe, easy and tactically superior option of simply leaving a dangerous situation. It is imperative that partners understand how to play a proper bad guy.

The second advanced version of specific resistance is Inbreeding.

It follows this pattern:

  1. There is a tactical or self-defense problem that actually exists e.g. pushed up against a wall with a knife at the throat.
  2. You have a workable solution to the problem.
  3. The person playing the threat comes up with another way to present the same problem such that the solution no longer works.
  4. You come up with a workable solution to the new presentation.
  5. Repeat steps 3&4. Possibly forever.

Within one or at most two repetitions, you will have a solution to a problem that never has and will never exist in the real world but is required for rank testing. It creates an excessive complexity that can make an entire system unworkable.

To be continued.


Re-Thinking Resistance Part I- Rory Miller

Years ago I wrote an article, The Myth of the Fully Resisting Opponent (http://chirontraining.blogspot.com/2009/09/myth-of-fully-resisting-opponent.html). In that article, I was ranting. Largely because the force I dealt with working the jail was so unrelated to what I saw or felt in sport. The most extreme full-contact combat sport was as close to a violent assault as non-contact sport sparring was to the most extreme full-contact combat sport. The article was a rant, and while it was pertinent and accurate, it wasn’t actually very useful.

In this article, I want to explore resistance, both in training and real life.

Any time you apply force, whether in practice or in danger, that force must overcome some level of resistance.

In training, those levels can be described as:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Situational
  • Scaled
  • Directed
  • Sport
  • Specific

In real life, the resistance levels are:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Undecided
  • Passive
  • Active
  • Assaultive
  • Lethal
  • Asymmetrical

Training Levels of Resistance

In training, the goal is to build skills. The level of resistance should be geared toward maximizing the learning process but can easily be perverted to manufacturing an illusory level of competence.

Cooperative Resistance.

The cooperative level isn’t a level of resistance at all. Almost the opposite. This is the student who throws himself. Or who stumbles back before the demo punch has even landed. This is the student who responds to the “no-touch knockout.”

I’m going to try hard not to talk about systems, styles or instructors here. Kicking over a tribal hornet’s nest is fun, but rarely (if ever) makes for good communication. I’ve seen an instructor teach his students that, “Your body knows that two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space, and so when I thrust my palm toward your face, your body has no choice but to fall.” His students would actually throw themselves onto their backs if faced with anything that looked like a palm heel strike. That technique worked on nobody except his own students.

I’ve seen students so damaged by previous instruction that they fell down before I had actually touched them.

Either the students are faking, or they are not. If the students are faking, it’s pretty dark stuff. The student has been taught that in order to get along, he or she must victimize themselves. The instructor applies the technique and the student responds though there is no reason. This prepares the student for failure and it allows the person who applies the technique as well as any observers to have a completely unfounded faith in the technique and the system.

If the student is not faking, it may be worse. It implies an extreme level of brainwashing. Brainwashing can be quick. The students who want “secrets” and “magic” are especially vulnerable and can be conditioned to fall in a matter of minutes.

This is an abomination. There is no learning advantage to this level of “resistance.”

Compliant Resistance.

Compliant resistance is simply going along with the technique. It has two good training purposes.

When a student is first learning a skill or technique, excessive resistance can convince them that a good technique doesn’t work. A good BJJ or judo partner must let a beginner get the armbar at first so that the beginner learns the flow of the technique. Same goes for a rookie officer learning a handcuffing technique.

This is appropriate at a very specific, early time in training. Once the technique is understood, resistance has to increase so that the rookie learns how to overcome resistance.

Compliant resistance becomes toxic when it spreads throughout the system. Let’s face it an instructor can look really good if he or she only works with compliant partners. Some instructors, consciously or not, start rewarding compliance and punishing resistance. Compliance can then quickly spread through a class or even an entire system. The system quickly becomes useless outside of that particular system.

Compliance is also appropriate when it becomes too late to resist safely. Resisting a throw after you are in the air and hurtling to the ground can result in serious injury (writes the man who dislocated his own shoulder to deny an opponent a point). This mostly applies to well-executed locks and throws and especially throws from locks.

It’s a safety rule and a good one. It doesn’t become toxic unless the students are told that all locks and throws are equally dangerous regardless of quality and they start practicing going along with even poor technique.

To be continued.


Book Review – “Force Decisions: A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding How Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force” by Rory Miller

I just wrote this to someone about understanding use of force, are you willing to read a book?

The book title is “Force Decisions: A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding How Police Determine Appropriate Use of Force” by Rory Miller. It’s a whopping $8.69 on Kindle.

It will not give you a universal answer but it will help you understand why there isn’t such a thing. Which since you are asking, (and I’m going to assume that isn’t a rhetorical question or virtue signalling,) I can give you an overview why things aren’t so simple. Also why reading that book will help you understand and appreciate that not ‘so simple.’

Rory will give you a different break down — and a very important one — but I want to focus on something else. There are three different categories. A good use of force. A bad use of force and — let’s call it — borderline.

I can point to the videoed incident a few years ago where a North Carolina cop shot a fleeing suspect in the back and then another cop walked up dropped a taser next to the dying guy to make it look like he’d pulled a gun. Bad shoot, bad, bad, absolutely no question. That was manslaughter and attempting to cover it (The now ex-cop Michael Slager is facing murder charges AND Federal charges). As this demonstrates, bad shootings DO exist… as do bad uses of force.

Then there are good uses of force. Like hey sending in a robot with a bomb against the sniper in Dallas. This AFTER killing five people and wounding seven more, he told the negotiators there were bombs and he’d kill anyone who came in after him. (I specifically use this example for a reason that will become clear in a second.)

Borderline are the booger. They are the ultimate “it depends” Starting with that they are VERY factor dependent. (Take the Castile shooting. Some reports say he had the gun in his hand by his thigh. Some say it was in his waist band and his hand was near it. ‘Girlfriend’ says he wasn’t doing nuthin’ and was legally carrying) You can’t really make a call until you get as much evidence as possible, then you’re still left with assessing if it was good, bad or borderline. Because with borderline an argument can be made for both positions.

Borderline calls are complicated by four things

1 – Many people have absolutely NO experience with physical violence. While most have only extremely limited experience. Yet they become instant experts on the subject when it comes to police use of force. Oh r’lly?

2- An often used term — and just as often dismissed — is “officer safety,” We’re not just talking death, we’re talking injury and permanent disability as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to go up against someone who you don’t want to hurt, but they have no hesitation about hurting you. Physically doing this without injury to yourself is to put it in the most polite terms, ‘a bitch.’ (If that’s polite you can guess how complicated and nasty it is) Officer safety is often dismissed when public opinion is driving the bus.

3- There are a LOT of people in in this society who believe “Violence never solved anything.” As such ANY use of force is automatically bad. I cannot stress enough the influence of this belief on the subject. Simply put, if all violence is bad, then all police use of force is — by extension — a bad use of force. Now is it tolerable? A necessary evil if you will? That would give you some leeway. (For example, bomb vs. sniper, still not right, but okay, if you must….) There are some people however, that both actively hate the cops and hold that any use of force by the police (not violence by them mind you, but from the cops) is automatically, categorically and unquestionably BAD. There is no good. There is no borderline, they are all bad. While often they will eventually reveal this extreme position, they will usually try to pretend their condemnation is about the use of force in this particular incident. (Remember the robot bomb? There are people condemning the cops for using it. I lie to you not.)

4- There is a growing … what? Trend? Movement. Attitude? …that you can treat cops like some asshole at the bar. As in you can argue with him and if he pisses you off you can attack his punk ass. The more general movement is Youtube lawyers (am I being detained), passive resistance, ‘you have no right,’ and the more extreme sovereign citizens.This is not only a foundation for the attitude of ‘fuck the cops’ but it often manifests in resisting arrest and physical attacks on the cops. What is often overlooked is how fighting the cops (even though you’re usually going to lose) gives you street cred.’ Do NOT underestimate the influence of braggin’ rights (Man, it took five cops before they could cuff me!)

Those four points — which factor into a lot of borderline incidents — are often swept aside in the rush to condemn a use of force incident as ‘bad.’

While I could say that reading Rory’s book will help you have a more informed opinion. That’s not the major selling point. People’s opinions tend to be their cherished pets. And gawds know that if you’re in a group who believes a certain way, being informed or daring to question accepted views is social suicide. The real selling point is to make more informed decisions in your dealing with cops. This so you don’t get your ass slammed to ground and then find out the hard way (and expensive) that what you were doing was non-compliance if not actually resisting.