Sunday, July 31, 2011

7 Essentials for MA students and teachers

Last of the information I'm going to post from the Miller Seminar, I debated back and forth about whether to post this or not, but I feel this is pretty essential information. These are all things most dojos don't cover but SHOULD. This is essential for both students and instructors to know. If you're interested, Meditations on Violence covers everything much more thoroughly. I'll be posting information from and a review of Facing Violence once Sensei Nick brings it back from Singapore and I get a chance to read it. ¬.¬

Self Defense - 7 things you (and your students (or teachers)) NEED to know:
  1. Legal and Ethical - Legal - Don't go to prison for doing something you thought was ok. Disarm/disable the attacker and get the heck out. Don't disarm him and then stab him with his own knife and kick him while he writhes in pain on the ground. Ethical - know your own laws. Know where your glitches and lines are, know what you can and can't do.
  2. Violence Dynamic - its stupid to study Martial Arts/Self Defense without studying how violent predators attack. That is the question, Martial Arts is the answer. You cannot study the answer without knowing the question. In addition, do not train against stuff that never happens in real life. Study how people really attack and work to that. 
  3. Avoidance / Evade and Escape / DeEscalate - Avoidance - Avoid places where violence happens. If violence does happen, Evade and Escape! Run towards safety and away from danger, this means running towards lights and people, remember witnesses, etc. Deescalate - know when you can and when you can't. If someone is in an altered state of mind, you probably won't be able to talk them into calm, rational thought, so best just get out and notify the authorities.
  4. Operant Conditioning  - when confronted with a new situation, people go through the OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. To limit the amount of time it takes you to get through the OODA loop, you need a decision stick instead of a decision tree. Keep things as simple as possible to narrow down your reaction to Stimulus - Response Stimulus - Response Stimulus - Response etc. 
  5. Freeze - EVERYONE freezes, this is normal, the only thing you can do to try to break the freeze is to tell yourself to do something, and then you have to make yourself do it. Then you'll want to freeze again, so you have to make yourself do something again. 
  6. Fight - in a fight, your skills WILL go to shit, you won't know anything, you won't know who or how or why, or anything, bad guys smell and they don't care if they get in your space and they hurt you. If you are losing badly, then you have nothing to lose, so anything and everything goes. If you're going down, take the guy with you.
  7. Aftermath - there will be legal, medical and psychological aftermath. As far as the immediate goes, GET SAFE, CHECK YOURSELF FOR INJURIES, and then CALL IT IN ASAP. If you are OK with what happened, THAT IS OK, don't let some counselor tell you that you are broken and should have damage and trama. If you aren't ok with what happened, that is ok too! You WILL be ok, You will change and grow and you will never be the same again, but you will be ok.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spider Sense and Safety Words

"My spider sense is tingling..."

When I first began discussing the idea of studying Martial Arts seriously again with Sensei Nick, we talked about all kinds of things. Nick recommended authors to me like Miller, Kane, Wilder, and Abernethy. He sent me ideas for drills. He even mentioned at one point it might be interesting to go bar hoping some weekend to watch for fights. NOT participate, but just observe.

I kind of liked the idea because I haven't ever really been exposed to violence before. How can I teach the martial arts without having some idea of how violence happens and what it's like. Reading Miller's work helps with this, but in the end I figure it's kind of like reading romance novels to learn about sex. Each experience is different, and while people can tell you what it's like, until you actually do it for yourself you really still have no idea.

So when I made the decision to be an Uchideshi, I knew I was going to be in for some interesting experiences. Little did I know they were going to happen so quickly.

Sensei Nick currently teaches classes on Monday and Tuesday at a small dojo in the next town over. (When he's in the country anyway) After our Aiki class Sensei Nick had me going over kata. It was just Sensei Nick, his daughter Emma and I in the dojo. It was late, after 9:30pm, and dark outside, etc.

Sensei Nick was sitting on the mat, I was doing my kata, and his daughter was sitting next to him. A guy walks into the dojo and sits in the chair and starts to watch. He doesn't say anything. I IMMEDIATELY get a strange vibe off this guy and start to feel pretty uncomfortable. I finish up my kata and Nick stands up and says its time to go. Emma and I start to turn the fans off and the guy moves over to the counter to talk to Nick. I can't hear what is being said, but Emma and I are on the other side of the room and Nick looks over at me and tells me to take Emma and go wait in the car. Now I'm starting to feel really bad about the situation. I'm not 100% sure what to do at this point, but I trust Nick so I take Emma (who is 10) and we go wait in the car.

I have a million things going through my mind. Do I call the cops? Is Nick ok? Does this guy just want to talk? Is he going to rob Nick? Does he have a knife or a gun? From where we were parked I could see inside the dojo and was trying to look in the mirrors to see if I could see where Nick and guy were, but I couldn't. I trust Sensei Nick, I know he can handle himself and I know he could seriously mess someone up if he had to. But I would rather not take the chance. Emma and I had only been in the car for a few minutes before another car pulled up and started honking. I could see a mom and a kid inside. The kid jumped out and ran up to the dojo, so I assumed they were this man's family. Shortly thereafter Nick and the guy came out and he got in the van and Nick got in the car with us.

Nothing bad happened, but my heart was pounding.

The conversation on the drive home was of course what to do next time something like this happens. I KNEW something was not right. Nick has mentioned the book "Gift of Fear" many times, because people often tell themselves they are being paranoid, but you do not want to ignore your intuition. EVER. This can save your life. We have that tingly spider sense for a reason. Don't ignore it. In the seminar earlier this month Miller mentioned not to ignore your subconscious either. He said when your subconscious goes off, to look around and see what has triggered it. Have an internal dialogue with yourself and talk to your subconscious. The more you learn to have your subconscious and your conscious communicate with each other, the more things your subconscious will notice.

In the end Nick and I devised a system. If something happens again and he says something like, go wait in the car or whatever, and tugs on his ear while he says it, I will promptly leave and call the police for help. It turns out the guy was drunk and he did have a knife, but he didn't pull it on Nick. He just wanted to talk. Thankfully. Since I tend to fidget with my hair and pull on my ears and stuff a lot we decided the best thing would be for me to have a verbal cue. "Everything's good in Tokyo." means "HEEEEELP!"  Maybe all of this is a little silly, but I feel much better having a code to be able to communicate distress in a situation where you can't necessarily actually ask for help.

I'm glad the situation wasn't critical, no one was hurt, nothing bad happened, but it was certainly a good learning experience and sparked some really good conversation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Setting your doubt aside

This week has been pretty crazy so far. Made the drive down to Oklahoma, by myself in a car with no AC on Monday night. Have been intensely job hunting, trying to finish up projects, reconcile feelings, have bumped into people that I haven't seen in years, among other things. Overall, its been kind of emotional.

Mainly, I am working on getting settled in at Sensei Nick's. I can't exactly say we've hit the ground running as far as martial arts is concerned, but that's probably not a bad thing. Having a few days to adjust and sort of plan things out has been pretty nice. I did a lot of job hunting this week and hopefully something will come through for me soon.

Later today we're going to solidify the uchideshi schedule and tomorrow we're going to start our practice run for the week.

In the mean time we've been sparring a bit and going over Heian Nidan. I really REALLY love kata. But I have to say, I've never had to struggle so much with learning a kata before. Sensei Nick is such a technical teacher, it really opens your eyes to how much some of the other schools are leaving out when they teach you these things. I cannot even begin to tell you how many things have been left out of my instruction prior to now. Aiki kata are different than kempo or karate kata, and even though Sensei Nick went over them in detail with me while I was studying under him in high school, it's not the same level of involvement as now.

Over the last couple days I have become increasingly aware that I am going to be the biggest obstacle I will have to face in my training. I am incredibly self critical and I get down on myself or discouraged very easily. I am usually pretty good about keeping after it and doing something anyway, but it can be difficult to focus and slow you down if you allow negative thoughts to take up space in your mind.

Sensei Nick sat down and had a conversation about this last night after we finished going over Heian Nidan. He said that fear and doubt are normal and that everyone experiences them, the trick is to be able to acknowledge those feelings, and then set them aside and continue to do what you need to do. To be able to see that part of yourself, take it for what it is, but not let it control you.

This all kind of goes back to Miller's blog post about yes and no people. People who are trail blazers and refuse to allow fear and negative feelings to hold them back. I want to be like that. Even if it scares the shit out of me, I want to continue on the path I've chosen.

I want to leave you with a quote Sensei Nick mentioned last night in our discussion. "With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side." Hagakure

Have a good weekend all, tomorrow the uchideshi madness begins so I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Seminar held by Mr. Rory Miller. I've spent the last couple days digesting the information we went over, but I think I'm ready to post now.

To sum up the seminar:  It. Was. AMAZING.

The seminar was not so much about Martial Arts or Self Defense, but Violence. Martial Arts isn't about playing a game of tag, or doing a dance with your kata, it's about manufacturing cripples and corpses instead of becoming one. Hell yeah.

The main talks Miller gave were about 7 things you need to know about self defense, how to deal with the legal ramifications should you ever have an altercation and what you need to know to defend yourself in court, and different types of violence and why they occur. This is all INCREDIBLY good information and I highly recommend you go to a seminar with him if you ever have the chance.

I don't want to go over everything, or give anything away in case anyone out there gets to attend a Seminar by Miller and hasn't before. It will seriously change your perspective of things. The drills are great. One I feel comfortable talking about is one step sparring.

One step sparring is pretty damn awesome. Most of the time when we practice in the dojos, often we inadvertently train to pull our punches, to not hit your partner square in the nuts, to not follow through so you don't hurt your partner, we train at a sparring distance, not combat distance, etc. These can all turn into really bad habits and come out if you ever experience an altercation outside the dojo. You don't want to train yourself how to miss and how to not hit the bad guy hard. To get around this, with one step sparring, you start a close range, you hit with full power and full accuracy, but you take away the speed. The theory is no one will ever move slowly if they are afraid. Therefore, You can practice with full intensity and follow through, so you can see how things might actually work out, but not hurt each other. This is done by taking the speed element out of it and sparring super SUPER slow. Which is very cool. And VERY eye opening. Try it.

One thing that I LOVED, is that Miller almost never says to practice, he says to play. I know I'll do a poor job of summarizing this, but Miller explained that kids learn things so quickly because they play, they don't try to practice or analyze, they just go do it. So WE should go play with our martial arts. Play in all types of environments, try all types of scenarios, and just have fun with it. It will help you pick things up better as well as figure out what works for you and what doesn't.

One of the other things that I enjoyed was the plastic mind drill. I'm hesitant to mention exactly what it was, again, in case anyone out there gets to go to one of his seminars. Just consider the fact that you don't necessarily have to take the persona or the mentality that you have on a daily basis into a fight with you. It's ok to play with your brain and be creative and imaginative.

Miller is very good at breaking things down and presenting them clearly. He breaks up the types of violences and explains how predators are able to keep women locked in social mode to keep them from fighting back, and a host of other really useful things.

For example, adrenaline affects men and women differently. Men experience a sharp spike and then it drops very quickly while women have a very slow gradual increase that plateaus for a long time and then gradually fades off. This means in the beginning of any situation, women can remain calm and clear thinking longer, and once they get going can have more endurance. In short, women have super powers. Freaking. Awesome. This ALSO explains why sometimes women cry or get weepy after sparring. HOLY COW! GUESS WHAT! It's not an emotional thing at all like I thought it was after I sparred the first time. It's just your body trying to figure out how to burn off the adrenaline now that you're not doing anything. HA. I had to throw this in this post, because I don't know if anyone had a similar experience to the one I blogged about previously. First time sparring, after I was done I went in the back of the dojo and after a few minutes I started crying. I had no idea why, I wasn't upset, I'd just had a blast and really enjoyed myself, but there the tears were, for no reason. It all makes sense now. :D Which I think is really cool.

By the end of the day I had take over 20 pages of notes. There is so much I could cover, but you'd be better off checking out his books or his website, or blog, or all of the above. (His most notable books are Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence or you can visit Miller's website or Miller's blog for more information and cool stuff)

It was an incredibly satisfying day and a very eye opening experience. Miller is down to earth, has a great sense of humor, and some very unique experiences and perspectives. Once again, if you ever have the chance to attend a seminar, jump all over it.

Have a great week all.

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

Friday, July 1, 2011

Avoid if possible!

Bear with me, this post is going to be a little bit scatterbrained:

July is my most favorite month of the year. For a variety of reasons. This year July is going to be even better than usual because: I will be attending Miller's seminar on the 9th. I am REALLY excited for this one.

To the point: in light of the holiday, a time when people will be out doors, and probably drinking, and thinking about the seminar I get to attend next weekend and Miller's book "Meditations on Violence" I wanted to bring up being aware of your surroundings and some other safety things.

Yes, as Martial Artists, we go to class and learn how to maim, injure, decapitate and otherwise incapacitate our adversaries. BUT, one thing that many of the dojos I have been to do not stress are what to do BEFORE you have to fight. And I only say have to, because you should never start a fight and you should never resort to violence unless necessary. Miller talks about this in Meditations on Violence... look, just read the book, its amazing.

Now, I used to be like... "Whatever, if someone starts something with me, I'm going to kick their ass!" However, Sensei Nick made me watch the broken shin kick video on YouTube. If you haven't seen it, take a look. Its only 14 seconds. I saw that and thought "Oh... Maybe I don't want to get into a fight so badly after all...."

Miller talks a lot about the monkey dance. How people escalate from insults to pushing and shoving to violence. It is to prove something. You are defending only your pride and your ego. That is the kind of fight you should always walk away from. ALWAYS. As a martial artist, you're above that anyway, you don't need to prove anything. You (should) know better. Plus, you can go to jail if you really hurt someone. I don't want to spend years in jail, I'm pretty sure you don't either.

So, with that being said, As a martial artist, we don't want to fight unless we absolutely have to, right? Say it with me: "RIGHT."

How do we avoid getting in a fight?

1) Don't be there! - If you know there is a bad area of town, or some place that is not reputable for being safe, avoid it. I want to say, especially around holidays like this when people are out partying and drinking. Drunk people do strange and stupid things sometimes. Best to avoid those who are very heavily intoxicated, right?

2) Be aware of your surroundings. When I was younger my mom made me take a few rape defense classes with her. I was usually always the youngest in the room at 14, but I learned some good stuff I still think about almost a decade later. When you are out and about, just be aware. Don't be digging through your purse looking for your keys as you walk out to your car late at night with your arms full of groceries. Have your keys on hand and ready. (better yet, get a kubaton for your keys!) Do not be text messaging or looking at your phone. Walk with confidence and look people in the face. People don't want to be recognized if they're going to attack you. Its hard to explain I guess, but try to minimize your distractions. And pay attention to where you are and what is around you. Don't park next to big vans or SUVs with tinted windows. Now, again, I probably come across as paranoid, and just because someone has a van with tinted windows doesn't mean they are a predator. But, better safe then sorry.

SO. Pay attention to where you are, pay attention to what is around you and who you are with. Just little stuff like that.

Keep in mind, this doesn't address the fact that Felicia's points out in her blog that with women most violence happens with someone you know, this is just if some crazy psycho decides you look like easy pickin's. Her post is something which is something I would like to write about in more detail in the future. For example, in Aikijustu, Sensei Nick is always saying there is a 'lets get the keys from drunk uncle bob' way to deal with someone and a 'you are trying to kill me so I will bounce your head off the sidewalk' way to deal with them. Same technique, just effective vs. potentially lethal. I want to do more research to find out if other Martial Arts Systems are like this and how that works, among other things.

The second thing I wanted to address is that, if some drunk guy stumbles up and asks for my number, I'm not going to beat the shit out of him for no reason. If he touches me or things seem like they're going to get out of hand, I will leave. Or find help. Immediately.

HOWEVER. If you truly believe that your life or your safety is in danger, and there is no escape or no way to get out of the situation, THEN you kick their ass and don't hold back. To quote Sensei Nick "Fighting with enough ferocity to scare a tiger is the only option."

Miller writes "It's better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die."

There! that sums up mostly everything I wanted to get out in this post.

Really, I just wanted to say "Be safe and have a good weekend everyone".  Ha. Oops. @.@

Well... Be safe and have a good holiday weekend everyone! Enjoy the 4th!