Martial Arts News – April 2017

1. If you don’t go to stupid places,
2. with stupid people,
3. doing stupid things, it is much harder to get involved with danger.  – Rory Miller, The Rule of 3.

Articles

What is Situational Awareness?

As martial artists we often talk about being aware of our surroundings, but what exactly does that mean.  For me, it means knowing where the exits are, recognizing who is in close proximity to me, and spotting what doesn’t belong.

When looking for exits, keep in mind that they aren’t always a doorway, and they don’t always lead outside. They are meant to get you from your current location to someplace safer.

It might seem a little paranoid, but when people are within arms reach of me or approaching to that distance, I become hypersensitive to them. That doesn’t mean I stare at strangers with an evil eye, but I do take note of their attitude, hand position, general posture and whether their proximity is appropriate for the context. I’m not as likely to raise a red flag if I’m waiting in line at Disney or squished into a crowded elevator. Where as if I am going to my car and someone is leaning on the car next to mine, I’m more likely to awesome the worst.

And that kind of leads into the next point, spotting what doesn’t belong. I’ve know people who will ask me what color eyes a stranger had to see if I was being “aware.” I’ll fail that test every time.  Ask me to point out the guy in dark sunglasses in a dimly lit room…. yeah, I got that.  You can’t be observe every detail, and the more you try to focus on one thing, like the color of someone’s eyes, the more likely you’ll miss something else.

Most of us already recognize when something is out of place. In the article linked to above the author talks about going to a dog park where there is 30 dogs running around and one that is growing and snapping its teeth.  You don’t have to know whether the dog has a collar or what breed it is to know that you might want to keep an eye on that one.

Teaching Situational Awareness to Kids

Speaking of Situational Awareness, one of the best ways to improve it is to make a game out of it.  The article talks about doing it with kids, but you could just as easily do it with a group of adults, or even by yourself.

It the article, the author talks about breaking the game into three sub-categories. One would focus on the place, the other on people and the third on things.

I like the places category, but I’m not a huge fan of the other two.  With places, the questions focus on “Where are the exits?”, “Where did we par?”, “Where would you go to be safe?”  Those are good questions to ask when you are in a new location.  I wouldn’t ask them an hour later because by then the information isn’t nearly as useful to have.

For people and things, the author asks specific questions about a person or object that was encountered. What color shirt did the cashier have on? What was the sign next to the door?  I think you are better asking “who doesn’t belong?” or “What’s out of place?” And,  I think it’s better to ask those questions in the moment.  After all, you want to train awareness not memory.

If you are working with kids, focus on a small scale such as a display where all the boxes are facing one way but one is facing the opposite.  Then, specifically ask,  “What is out of place in that display?”  Once they get the hang of it, turn it around. Have the child discover something out of place and challenge you to find it.

Keep in mind that young kids might (make that probably) say something embarrassing if you ask them about people. You don’t want to hear, “the fat one” as the answer when you ask  “Who doesn’t belong in that group?” A safer bet might be about an item of clothing. “Who has shoes not like the others?” or “Who’s not wearing a name tag?”  When you are specific you can always ask the follow up question. “What does it mean when someone is wearing a name tag?” “Why do you think the one man has on sneakers when everyone else is wearing boots?”

Keep it simple and make it fun. That’ll go a long way to helping kids (and adults) for a lasting habit.

 

Top 10 Pre-Incident Indicators

Recognizing a threat is the first step to avoiding it. Here is a list of ten things to be aware of.

  1. Inexplicable presence – Someone appears out of place.
  2. Target glancing – Someone watching you without trying to look like they are watching you.
  3. Sudden change in status – Someone changes their position when they see you.
  4. Correlation of movement – Someone falls into step with you, matching your pace or direction.
  5. Hidden hands causing unnatural movement(s) – Someone is hiding a hand (or both hands) as the move.
  6. Inappropriate clothing – Someone wearing a heavy trench coat on an sunny, summer day.
  7. Predatorial movement/actions that seek an advantage/dominant position – Two people approach and begin to flank you, or one cross the street to get in front of you while his friend continues past to get behind you.
  8. Unnatural impediments to free movement – Someone is blocking your way.
  9. Unsolicited attempts at conversation – Someone tries to strike up a conversation out of the blue. Especially if they get hostile if you try to avoid them.
  10. Baiting – Someone accuses you of something or implies you did something wrong.

None of these ten items are a sure fire test to say that someone is going to attack you, but all of them should put you on alert. If the situation doesn’t feel right, then it’s time to get out of there.

Recently I heard an instructor say something like “Your safety overrides their feelings.”  In other words, don’t be the nice person who doesn’t want to hurt someone’s feeling if you are even a little concerned for your safety. Your safety is always your number one priority.

Video

PEAK HOW TO MASTER ANYTHING by Anders Ericsson | Animated Core Message

Simply doing something for hours and hours doesn’t mean you’ll improve.  In fact, once you reach a point of “acceptable performance” your actual skill level is likely to decrease even if you continue to practice.  Your practice must be deliberate with the intent to improve if you wish to get better doing something.

“Mental representations explain the difference between novices and experts.” – Anders Ericsson

The core components of Purposeful Practice are:

  1. Have a specific, small, incremental goal.
  2. Practice session are periods of intense focus.  Distraction are eliminated.
  3. Immediate feedback after each attempt that was easy to understand. Success or failure.
  4. Operate just at the edge of your ability. Push beyond your comfort zone.

Deliberate Practice is the combination of Purposeful Practice with Expert Coaching.  Sort of like what we do in a Karate class.

Books

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence – I have only started reading this book, but I was blown away by the content in the first few chapters.  It was highly recommended to me by a fellow martial artists, and it is definitely worth the price.  If you are a Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Prime member, you can read it for free as one of your borrows.

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February 2017, Martial Arts News – Part 2

“The art should definitely be taught to suit the individual and not the individual the art.” Ed Parker, Founder of American Kenpo

In this post I talk about self-defense tactics, working with kids, and different ways to think about blocking.

The Martial Arts New is a monthly series that takes a look at articles, videos, podcasts and books that can help to improve your knowledge of the self-defense, technique, history, teaching and what ever else may catch my eye during the month.

Articles

Youth Physical Development Model: A Scientific Compass for Every Karate Sensei!! (Part 1)

This article contains several charts that identify key areas to focus training based on age and gender.  For example, with younger children, you will accomplish more developing fundamental motor skills and strength as opposed to sport specific skills.

In Karate kata and self-defense drills can be considered the sport specific skills. The fundamental motor skills are what you get when you break down sport specific skills. The younger the student, the more that you need to break it down.

While at a seminar this weekend, one instructor used the phrase “Break it down to the ridiculous,” and used introducing a natural stance to young students as an example. Back straight, eyes focused ahead, arms relaxed and in front, feet spread – These are all points that we take for granted now, but need to be explained and demonstrated to younger students.

14 Self-Defense Tips Every Woman Should Know

These are good suggestions for everyone, although there is only 13.  They skip number 10 on the site

  1. Mentally Prepare Yourself
  2. Have a Plan
  3. Follow Your Intuition
  4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
  5. Don’t Look Like a Victim
  6. Be Car Smart
  7. Predict Dangerous and Controlling Behavior
  8. Know Your Strengths & His Weakness
  9. You Have the Right to Fight
  10. Don’t Be Relocated
  11. Stay Alert on Vacation
  12. Be Safe at Home
  13. Prevent Date Rape – Date rape is still rape. Defend yourself against someone you know just like you would against a stranger on the street.

To predict dangerous behavior, you should be aware of things to look for.

Common Pre-Incident Indicators (P.I.N.S).:

  • Forced Teaming — When someone tries to pretend he has something in common or is in the same predicament as you when it isn’t true. (“Let me help you with those bags of groceries. We don’t want that ice cream to melt.”)
  • Charm – Being polite and nice to manipulate someone. (“I can’t let you carry all these bags by yourself. Let me help you get them inside.”)
  • Too Many Details – If someone is lying they add excessive details to make them seem more credible. (“I’m going to your floor anyway. I’m meeting a friend, but I’m running late – my watch stopped working. So, we need to hurry. Come on. We have a hungry cat waiting for this cat food.”)
  • Typecasting – An insult to get you to talk to someone you otherwise wouldn’t. (“There is such a thing as being too proud. Now stop being silly and hand me another bag.”)
  • Loan Sharking – Giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return. (“I’ve carried your groceries up four flights of stairs; just let me put them on the counter.”)
  • Unsolicited Promise — A promise to do (or not to do) something when no such promise was asked for; this usually means the promise will be broken. (“You can leave the door open, I’ll leave as soon as I put the bags down, I promise.”)
  • Discounting the word “no” — Refusing to accept rejection.

The above list (shared in the article) originally come from the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I haven’t read this yet, but it is on my “to read” list.

How to Be a Good Karate Parent (Hint: Use These 6 Magical Words)

While the article is about karate, this applies to anything that our kids are doing.

According to psychological research, there are scientifically proven phrases that parents can use with their kids to ensure they stay motivated and super happy with their performance.

The top three statements moms/dads can make as their kids perform are:

Before Performance

  • “Have fun.”
  • “Do your best.”
  • “I love you.”

After Performance

  • “Did you have fun?”
  • “I’m proud of you.”
  • “I love you.”

And the number one phrase that made kids feel the best when they played sports is “I love to watch you practice.”

Videos

3 and 4 year olds – Physical SOD

Sometimes timing is a weird thing. The same day that I was reading the article about Youth Physical Development Model that is linked above, my instructor sent me a link to this excellent video by Melody Shuman.

It’s important to recognize what is normal for a student’s physical stage of development, and to communicate that to parents.  When a young student keeps dropping his arm or tends to roll over on her side after sitting for only a few seconds, it’s not because they are lazy. It’s because they are still developing strength in those muscle groups.  The kids who seem to be able to do that without problem are already above their physical stage of development.

3 and 4 year olds – Intellectual SOD is a related video that is worth watching in conjunction with the first one.

10 Commandments of Self Defense

Prof David James of the Vee Arnis Jitsu School of Self Defense talks about 10 important rules to be successful in a self defense situation.  The video demonstrates each concepts as he explains it.

In the opening of the video, there is a reenactment of a street conflict.  Watch it a second time and notice the reaction of the other people on the sidewalk.

The summary of the 10 points below is my take away on them.  Many of Prof James’ rule apply after the situation has escalated to a physical confrontation. Avoidance, Awareness and Deescalation are still the safest ways to avoid injury, but when they fail, it’s important to understand the physical nature of confrontation.

  1. Evaluate the Situation – Identify all potential attackers or threats.
  2. Three Foot Rule – You have to close the gap if you want to do damage.
  3. Start in a non-threatening manner – Allow the attacker to become overconfident.
  4. Control the Focus – Control the level of Eye contact. Understand when maintaining eye contact increases or decreases the threat.
  5. Motion Causes Motion – Understand how the body reacts to a strike.
  6. Element of Surprise – Attack when the threat is distracted (ie talking/threatening).
  7. Strike from the Closest Point – Use the shortest distance to eliminate reaction time.
  8. Change the Focus – Redirect the attacker’s vision/attention away from you.
  9. High and Low Concept – Strike at opposite ends of the spectrum (high, low or inside, outside)
  10. Faster Forward/Slower Backwards – You can move faster forward, then your opponent can move backwards. Maintain the offensive once you have it.

Gedan-Barai Limb Control

An interesting look at how to use the downward block to set up locks, chokes, take downs and strikes.

Books

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Martial Arts Character Education Lesson Plans for Children

Now that title is really a mouthful.  Lately I’ve been looking at different ways to improve myself as an instructor.  At Action Karate, we have an excellent program for training new instructors, and one of the aspects that we focus on is the mental benefits of karate.  It’s always good to see how other people approach the topic, and over the last week or so I’ve read about a half-dozen of Mike Massie’s books. None of them have been a disappointment. His work is definitely on my recommendation list for instructors who want to improve as teachers and as school owners.

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