Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mastering Force Delivery: Why knowing the science will make you more effective

Blitz, Australia's #1 Martial Arts Magazine has published an article I wrote on the use of the biomechanical concept of force to better understand and study martial arts techniques.

The title of this post appears on the front cover of the July 2013 edition, with 'Use the Force' being the title of the actual article.
The Biomechanics of Biffo
All martial arts techniques can be explained using the description 'push' or 'pull' - or so says West Australian jujutsu instructor John Coles, who had devoted years to writing and researching a book on the biomechanics of martial arts techniques. Coles, a 3rd Dan in Tsutsumi Hozan-ryu jujutsu, 1st Dan in Yoseikan aikido and 3rd Degree in Suci Hati Pencak silat, all under the late, world-renowned sensei Jan de Jong, believes that a better understanding of the scientific basis for combative movements - or rather, their successful application - has long been buried in scientific texts. When revealed, he says, it could change the face of martial arts. He begins here by explaining the fundamentals of force.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Boiling Frog Syndrome

Wendy Squires wrote a very thoughtful and personal article on the Nigella Lawson domestic violence incident. 'Not another article on domestic violence' you may be thinking. Given the wide spread prevalence of domestic violence in our society, it will touch our lives sooner or later (see the statistics in the article). Hopefully not directly, but we'll know someone who is or has experienced domestic violence. The more we know of the subject, the greater the possibility that we may be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

While there are many aspects to this story, the one that stands out for me from Squires' article is related to the following passage:
We could have asked how such a smart, capable, successful, intelligent woman as Nigella found herself in this position, but there was no need. We've both been there and still can't answer that question ourselves. Neither of us can pinpoint just when it became OK to think that this is normal. This is love. This is what I deserve.
I've supported a number of women who have been involved in an abusive relationship. I've read a lot of articles and studies on the subject. The question how they ended up in an abusive situation when they know better is so common it has become cliché.

When I listen or read about the history of a relationship, I see the boiling frog syndrome. It is, of course, complicated by the relationship, but I see so often the boiling frog syndrome.

The boiling frog syndrome refers to the anecdote where a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water, but will stay and be boiled to death if placed in cool water and the heat of the water gradually increased.

An abusive relationship often starts with a harsh word here or there. Then some name calling. A few derogatory remarks. A shove or two. Finally it ends in physical violence. The first time is a one off, and the relationship complicates matters. This graduation process normalises the process.

What I've seen with women who question how they got to the position they found themselves in - I must be stupid, I must want it on some level, etc - is simply re-victimising themselves. Suggesting the boiling frog syndrome I've found resonates with some domestic violence survivors, and has positively affected how they view how they view themselves.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Moral Courage

Lieutenant-General David Morrison made one of the greatest speeches ever in Australian history (see below). If you extend the message beyond female degradation and humiliation to that of degradation and humiliation of any human being generally, the message rings even louder.

This speech is not to be listened too. This speech is to be studied. But there is one aspect of the speech I'd like to speak too.

Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work. If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, ... it is up to us to make a difference.

Powerful stuff.

Many students come to the martial arts to learn to defend themselves. How much more empowering would it be if we encouraged them to stand up for others, which in turn makes it easier for them to stand up for themselves.

How do you stand up? In the martial arts, we tend to teach physical tactics and techniques to stand up against others. How are you going to teach A Force More Powerful? The power of non-resistance.

A recent news article reported how a lone man resisted in Turkey by simply standing up and putting his hands in his pockets - a force more powerful. Mahatma Gandhi and his followers walked willingly into lines of police who clubbed them and they did not respond violently. The unidentified man from Tiananmen Square in front of the tanks. How much more powerful than physical force is, 'No.'

Courage is an amazing, misunderstood concept. Shouldn't we be encouraging (teaching) moral courage rather than physical courage to defend oneself?

It was recently reported that Nigella Lawson was assaulted by her partner in a public restaurant. Patrons videoed the assault but NONE intervened. Do you want yourself or your students to be able to defend your/themselves but be one of the photographers at such an incident?

There was a recent event where a young man at an American college was secretly filmed being intimate with another male student. It was broadcast via Skype by the perpetrators and shared with a wider audience. The young man killed himself. What role do you and your student's want to assume in this tragedy.

A very good friend of mine's young son, testosterone fuelled, sporty lad shared with me a homophobic rant in order to demonstrate his manliness. Much to my surprise I was emotionally affected and distressed. I saw him as being the one standing up for the victims, fighting the tormentors. He would never be one of the perpetrators, but it still distressed me that he might have been one of the ones pointing the finger and laughing.

This post is designed to be a reflection on what we are teaching. If we wish to teach moral courage, we must also teach to say 'No' to those confronting us as well as those confronting others, even if we don't know them or even agree with them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Karate Kids Get Lesson In Fighting Back

'Karate kids get lesson in fighting back' is an article that published in The Age yesterday. Given my work for my book, I found some of the comments interesting.

Most children are taught the ''stranger danger'' message from a young age, but many parents are viewing martial arts training as a means of reinforcing that message with some physical self-defence skills, as well as for its health and fitness benefits.

My book uniquely contains a chapter on injury science, a relatively new science that studies injuries and the causes of injuries. All of the factors that interact to cause an injury are considered: the host, vector or vehicle, and environment. In this case, the host is the kids, the vector is a potential attacker, and the environment includes social and physical.

Injury events are divided into three time frames over which the factors interact: pre-event, event, and post-event.

Creating a matrix with the factors and phases of an injury event provides nine possible intervention points to prevent and control injuries from violence.

The stranger danger message is an intervention for the host in the pre-event phase. The physical self-defence training is an intervention for the host in the event phase.

Does martial arts training provide self-defence training? That is a contentious question with different opinions.

One of the biggest problems of martials training in terms of preventing and controlling injuries in a violent event is in the definition of the vector, the potential attacker. The definition of the vector is crucial to designing strategies, tactics and techniques to prevent and control injuries in a violent event. Most martial arts focus on the host and not the vector, or, the vector is themselves.

Most martial arts develop defences against their own style of attack. Karate teaches to defend against karate attack; judo against judo attacks; wing chun against wing chun attacks. Mixed martial arts was suppose to solve that problem except, through the principle of counter-response and symmetry, a new martial art evolved and defences were designed against those same type of attacks. How effective is this approach in preparing someone to defend themselves against someone who does not attack in the same fashion as those similarly trained?

This raises the issue of teaching one martial art to different ages and sexes. In another blog, the question of the applicability of male centric karate for females was questioned and explored. What then of adult centric karate for kids? Should there be different tactics and techniques taught if self defence is a supposed benefit of training and the vector is defined as an adult or a child of similar age?

''Part of martial arts is [trying] to avoid a situation by potentially seeing what's going to happen beforehand. It's not always easy, certainly for a young child, but you can at least teach some basic lessons, and that could help them.''
Trying to avoid a situation by seeing what's going to happen beforehand is an intervention in the pre-event phase. Do the martial arts teach skills that allows one to avoid a situation by seeing what's going on beforehand? Do they teach conflict resolution strategies that do not involve violence? I would suggest they do not. The martial arts focuses almost exclusively on the host-event cell in the matrix to prevent and control injuries from a violent event.

I'm not suggestion martial arts training does not assist in preparing a person to defend themselves. I'm suggesting that it may do so indirectly. I think not a lot of thought has gone into the suggestion that martial arts teaches one to defend themself when that is touted as being one of the functions or benefits of martial arts training.

If we truly want to ascribe a self defence function to martial arts training, then we need to review the martial art and its training. The abovementioned matrix, known as the Haddon Matrix, is a wonderful tool to help in reviewing the self defence function of martial art training and to develop enhanced capabilities.