Friday, April 29, 2016

Throwing It Out There

People think feeding is something you do so your partner an practice the techniques. It's the boring part you have to do until it's your turn to do the real stuff that matters.

Instead, why not start thinking of feeding as making your partner do things.

I want them to close distance.
I want them to back out
I want them to move left.
I want them to block high right.

Start thinking of every feed as a way to control what happens next.

How would that change how you feed to achieve this?

Sunday, April 24, 2016


The original meaning of 'parapet' was a defensive wall to protect soldiers, usually made of earth.
Nowadays we use the term more loosely. One meaning is a short wall surrounding a roof that is put there to prevent you from falling off the edge.

Back in the day, people used to practice martial arts forms standing on the parapets of roofs to practice their balance, stability, and precision, either standing still or in motion.

There's nothing like the awareness that comes from adding a potentially fatal fall to the equation if you screw up. It requires focus, agility, and confidence in your footwork.

Like the roof, every truth has an edge to it, a parapet, defined by context. Pretty much everything will work in some situation or another, by luck, by chance, or by a specific set of circumstances coming together to make it possible. Doing nothing CAN be a solution. So can offering an ice cream cone to a stranger, or kicking them in the balls. A look CAN sometimes stop someone in their tracks, and merely walking straight towards someone with a sword hanging from your hand can make them freeze and back off.

Problem is, they all work ... until they don't. And relying on something as 'the only solution' or the 'go to' can be an awful lonely feeling when it fails to deliver and the parapet trips you up and sends you sailing over the edge.

I recently had a conversation about 'reality' - a not uncommon occurrence. 'Well I'd just do X' was the jist of it, followed by a critique of why someone else was showing something that was obviously 'wrong'.

I do not purport to have all the answers, and there are better people to ask out there than me. However, I do know that this certainty is not a healthy approach, and believing you have THE answer means you are just raising your parapet to hide behind rather than expanding the size of your roof.

Now, I do agree that there ARE high percentage solutions to problems, which, if you choose to train only one thing, are your best bet. There are also really stupid things that are foolish to pin your hopes on, or at worse get you into even more trouble that you are already dealing with, BUT ... if you have the time and the interest to investigate further, you come to realize that you can in fact connect to the real time dynamics of an interaction and solve issues on the fly. One potential solution can turn into the next and perhaps even one more, with no effort. Your roof, your context, expands and the parapets recede. You are able to adapt on the fly as the context changes and do what you need to do. No boxes. No edges. No parapets.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Violence Dynamics West

The week after next will be The Violence Dynamics West series of workshops here in lovely Oakland California (Home of the Hell's Angels and The Black Panthers .. and Bruce Lee for a while too :-) )

I'm a huge believer in the value of physical, hands on practice, especially under the close supervision of skilled teachers - and there will be plenty of that, from empty hand all the way through to firearms with a day at the range scheduled for mid week. Additionally, I personally gain a great deal watching these skilled teachers work, and being able to ask questions about why they do what they do.

I like to watch how they move, what their body language conveys, and how they manage people. But possibly my most favorite thing of all is learning what they see out of their eyes when they encounter new situations, walk through spaces, and notice the people that inhabit them.

This last thing - being given the opportunity to see through another person's eyes - is possibly the most valuable. It will give you perspectives you may have never even imagined before and enhance your appreciation of your environment, whether it be for threat assessment purposes, urban survival skills, or just making everything in your proximity a bit brighter and deeper.

The line up is ridiculously good and encompasses a full spectrum of characters from 'both sides of the tracks'. We even have a couple special guest coming ...

I can't wait.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Grey Man in the Mirror

If you have not heard the term 'Grey Man' before, here is an article explaining what it means, how to become one, and how to notice one.

This is a useful skill set to have if you even find yourself in dangerous times and places, but does it have anything to do with training for sword play?


Grey Man is all about blending in, and observing one's situation. Grey Man understands what people see, and how to avoid triggering their RAS to stay safe and survive. Grey man is all about gaining intel without being noticed.

Know what people see and what they don't, and now you have both options to play with when you play. 

Here are a few quotes from the article that I think are particularly useful:

"The RAS will send data related to fast movement, threatening movement, movement on vectors that will intercept your own ..... The RAS ignores areas of continuous color, shadow, dull, natural colors, slow movement and off vector movement."

"The speed at which people move, the way they gesture, the volume and speed with which they speak. All these elements and many more make up the baseline."

"The element of matching the baseline is probably the single most important element of personal camouflage. Learning to walk like the natives walk will hide you better than just about anything else."

Just substitute "opponent" for 'natives' and now you have the concept of 'Mirroring' so key to our system.

Mirroring your opponent's movement is not only the best way to disappear, but also one of the quickest ways to understand their character.

Thing is, you have to dispense with your own personality and ego to be successful at this. To lose your identity and become others, is perhaps one of the harder things for most people to accomplish.

And to know whether you are doing it involves feedback from them. You cannot know it yourself until you have NOT been seen.

Monday, March 14, 2016

For Your Consideration

In progress:

Move. Always.
Relative movement is more important than movement alone.
Know and use still points - What moves, what does not?
Every thing has space around it.
The halfway point between things is important.
2 angles are better than 1.
Arcs are better than straight lines.
The center line is dangerous.
When you attack you are open.
Constant range is dangerous.
All tempo has gaps.
A constant tempo is easy to read.
Disconnect intent from tempo.
People tend to notice the upper body more than the lower body.
People tend to defend their eyes.
Commit last.
Have an exit.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Keep Out/Come In

 Questions about 'opening the door' came up recently, so here it is in a nutshell:

One of the counter intuitive things you have to learn in sword play is letting your guard down. I mean literally, taking your sword off the defensive line, removing the cover that it gives you, in fact removing it completely from the space between your opponent and yourself.

This is hard to do because we like to protect ourselves from things that are scary/dangerous by building a barrier, a fence (as in de-fence) no less, with our arms or weapon(s) to keep the threat at bay. It's very natural and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it .... unless ... it's the more dangerous option ...

Here's the logic

If we accept that change creates opportunity, and that a holding pattern only gets more and more dangerous as the moments tick by, you can't stay there.

The reason it gets more dangerous is that when you do nothing, you are in fact waiting and you have no idea what is going to happen next, or when. So the temptation to take a risk grows, possibly because we have an innate understanding that waiting is bad, tactics go out of the window, and the fastest person tends to get the first hit .. though often eats one in return due to the risk they too are taking.

Neither party is controlling the space, the time, or the action, so bad things happen.

This is when you have 2 options - You use your opponent's fence as your bridge to close the distance and bring the live hand into play, or, if this does not work, drop your guard and invite the opponent to come to you (resulting in the same change in range).

And the range needs to change. Standing at static range on the center line is the most dangerous place to be.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Window of Opportunity is Closing ..

This is a clip from 12 Monkeys. Brad Pitt's character Jeffrey has stolen a key so that Bruce Willis a.k.a Jim can escape from the mental asylum. Problem is that Jim has been drugged up to the eyeballs. It's a great scene.. but what does it have to do with swordplay?

Swordplay can be thought of as a series of windows and doors of opportunity opening and closing. Different openings give you different options, and if you are smart and adaptable, one opening will lead straight to the next, or perhaps even directly to the exit.

Sadly these openings are not always meant solely for you, and often by walking through one door, you may create a window for you opponent that you must bar if you are to continue on.

The other difficulty is that these windows are tiny, sometimes in space, but for sure in time. They are fleeting at best, and in the same way that a baseball hitter needs to align to the pitch before the ball is thrown, you too have to see it coming before it arrives to take advantage of it.

One option is to make your own door, but like in the clip, you'll need a distraction to cover your true motives (though sometimes you are truly lucky and you can do it in plain sight and still not be 'seen').

It takes practice to get your nervous system on line to notice the action, and training to do this can feel a little like being Jimbo (which I guess would make me Jeffrey?).

It takes time. Really. Time spent watching, participating, and experimenting. However, once you can understand what is going on, a whole new world will open up. Not only will you be a drug free Jim, you will be Jeffrey too.