Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Ground

Kasey made the cover of Police Magazine. He posted one of the interior pictures on FB with this caption:
"Here is the April 2015 issue of Police Magazine
Randy the business Sensei will be pleased to see the product placement of the One on One Control Tactics - O3CTlogo in a national publication. Also if you look close you can see a flag for Allegiance Fitness in the back ground. And I'm sure Rory Miller will recognize the Chiron Training weapon retention being demonstrated. #represent"
The shout-out is appreciated. And the CDT program (Chiron Defensive Tactics) is a good jumping-off point to something else.

The weapon retention part is good. I want to say it's the best out there and there's nothing else like it, but that's probably not true anymore. Enough people have been exposed to the idea, and been pleased with it, that it has and will spread. And there's always convergent evolution-- many different ways to get to something that works, and many of the things that work will be very similar.

The thing that's important in my head right now, though, is an aspect of permission. Under what circumstances do people and organizations give themselves permission to change? Refusal to adapt is a death knell. But change, especially organizational change, is hard. ConCom explains why...  but there's still a lot of work to do in how to change despite the difficulty.

Incremental improvement, building off of previous foundation is change, but it is very limited. As Dabrowski pointed out (Hat tip to Ann Craig) big personal growth involves a dissolution, a complete destruction and rebuilding of the person you were before. Big growth in a system would require dismantling the system and starting over.

You can get better by continuing to build on your foundation, with diminishing returns, but you have to dismantle them to get paradigm shifting change. And, of course, this level of change is seen as ego or identity destruction and is fought fiercely. ( I know I'm having a good thinking morning when I reheat the coffee four times and keep forgetting to drink it.)

So-- what gave MCSO the internal permission to give us the permission to change our weapon retention? I don't know the absolute answer, but I do know some of the pieces.

  • We cared. The people who needed this weren't some abstract "customer" they were people we worked with and cared about. Friends and colleagues. I think this is important personally, but it was true before change was allowed, so it wasn't the key.
  • We had a different demographic. Thirty or forty years ago, a big part of officer selection was simply size. (And who you knew.) They wanted big men and that was mostly what they hired. If you're teaching (like many military-based systems) 18-20 year-old men in the best shape of their lives, full of ego and testosterone, you can teach them almost any crap and they will make it work. Times change. In trying to make the profession gender and age neutral, there was a definite shift in physical abilities of the average officer. More importantly, there was a much wider range of physical abilities. You could no longer teach crap and expect a former high school linebacker to rely on strength to make it work. But that's not the reason either, because one of the things a modern bureaucracy requires is slavish lip-service to the patently untrue ideal that "all people are the same."
  • The techniques taught at the academy and by my agency simply didn't work. That right there should have been enough... but it wasn't. What they were teaching was measurable: the stereotypical eight-step wristlock takedown to prone cuffing never worked, but it gave you eight easily measurable steps on which to pass or fail a student.
  • People got hurt when things didn't work. Again, that should have been reason enough. But it wasn't. Not until we had a year with so many injuries that people got alarmed. Really alarmed, as in the union was looking into it. Understand that injuries came out of a different budget, it was state workman's comp. But lawsuits came out of the agency's budget. ---And another thing. When things are rare, like shootings, it is often easier to categorize failure as a "fluke" rather than entertain the possibility that you are doing things systematically wrong. Lots of people rationalize away problems until it is too late.
  • I think this was the key. It was the stupidest, most minor of details. We were teaching the academy-approved weapon retention curriculum for a gun grab from behind-- use your weapon hand to pin the weapon in the holster and turn to your non-weapon side to move the gun out of reach... and realized that the turn gave up the third level of retention for our modern type III holsters. We had not changed or seriously looked at our training methods on this subject since before we switched to semis. What we were teaching was actively wrong for the equipment we carried.
All of the other stuff mattered. People cared. But it took something to blame that didn't tie to people or policy to get the permission.

Just one example, and I know it's incomplete. But if you want to break new ground you need to reject old ground. Not out of ego. As a rule you don't change things that work, especially if you're doing it just so you can be in charge.

And there's a method to deconstructing the old practices so that what you build is stronger. It's not, or shouldn't be, just a childish rejection out of pique or spite.

This is already getting too long. Do you or does your organization need to change? If so, what will be required to give that kind of permission?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Packs

Just...wow. Off a plane, home for 26 hours, on the road, home for twelve hours and on a plane, then home for less than nine and on a plane again. And something is happening to my internal wiring, because (so far) I don't appear to be burning out on people. This is more exhilarating than exhausting. We'll see if that keeps up.

And the to-do list is somewhere between ambitious and overwhelming. Especially the writing section. And it's imperative to fight the paralysis that comes with having an excess of worthy goals. Things to do, things to do...

So let's make this quick.

Very few things are zero sum games. Outside of artificially imposed stuff (like the rules in a game. There are only sixteen chess pieces per side, only so many pieces of property in Monopoly) the only truly non-zero sums I can think of are space (literally the surface of the earth) and chemical elements, like Fe, iron. And exposed to human creativity, even those can be tweaked. There are only so many acres in Manhattan, but a skyscraper vastly increases the useable acreage by thinking in three dimensions. Money may have been a zero-sum game when we were on the gold or silver standard (although even then, it was never limited to one metal) but it certainly isn't now, and wealth never has been zero-sum.

Power, absolutely is not zero-sum. Increasing your intelligence does not decrease mine. Becoming more creative will not make me less creative. Your reps in the gym do not prevent me from doing my own reps (ooooh, though-- waiting in line for a squat rack is a zero-sum game. Limited resource of a specific object...until you apply human creativity and go outside and lift rocks.)

Power does have the effect of making other people who want to use power to coerce think. Coercion over powerless people has zero consequences. Coercion over powerful people is always risky. And thus evil people want to be surrounded by all the weak people possible. And they will claim that others getting strong is weakening them.

And look at the mechanics of that one very carefully. Because te other side is to claim that weakening the strong somehow, magically, strengthens the weak.

From a conversation with Anna Valdisseri when we talked in Sheffield. (I like the way she thinks, that's one of my highest compliments.) She had a unique way of looking at it. As best I can paraphrase:
Humans live in groups. We're social animals. When we see ourselves as pack animals we know that becoming more powerful as individuals makes the pack stronger. It's better for everyone. When we see ourselves as herd animals, we want all the other members to be weak because it increases our chances. If everyone is weak, the wolf will get someone else.

When something bad happens and hits the news, is your instinct to learn more and train harder so that you have options if it should ever happen around you? I started carrying regularly after the Luby's shooting in Texas because I realized I could not have contributed unarmed. If your instinct is to randomly disempower the people around you when bad things happen, that's a herd mentality.


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Actually wrote this three weeks ago but stumbled on an internal monkey brain problem in the middle. Took a while to work it out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Power

Maija asked the right question. Always best to define your terms. I think "strong" and 'weak" are false sorts, and forgive me for not being clear.

This whole line of thought got launched because Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken started a dialogue about power dynamics in teaching-- and the can of worms got a whole lot bigger than either of us expected. I really don't know where that project is going. It could be a book or a class or something unexpected. But so far, just in the questions, the collaboration looks promising.

Power isn't an endstate. There are no weak or strong people, just people at different places on a given continuum. And power is not linear. I am stronger than K, but she is smarter and more artistic than I am. R has more money, but J has more skills. Q can access a deep level of viciousness, but W can access an equally deep level of empathy. Power is not a scale but a net of ever-interconnecting methods of affecting the world. And in each strand of the net, you have attributes and skills that both affect the strength.

But in the end, it is about ability to affect the world and, at least equally and maybe more: an ability to have choice in how much the world affects you.

And so when I say "strong" or "weak" in this case, it has nothing to do with where you are on this scale. It has everything to do with which direction you are moving in. Because you are either getting better, or you are getting worse. If you don't get stronger, you will stagnate and get weaker. You can't rest on this. And that "can't' isn't meant as an admonition, but as a simple statement of fact.

If you are getting better, you are strong. Maybe not as strong as you want or you could be. Certainly not the strongest in the world. But the very act of seeking to be better, to be able to affect the world more, is strength.
And, conversely, if you are not striving to be better, you have accepted entropy and you are weak. Doesn't matter if you have the genetics to be a world power lifter. Doesn't matter if you inherited wealth and political power. Doesn't matter what you tell yourself so that you can sleep at night. If you aren't striving to be better you are, by my definition weak. Sorry.

And there's another dynamic here, because power is only a small part of it. You are already powerful. You have a brain bigger than our ancient ancestors. If you have a decent diet you are likely much bigger. You have better communication skills. You have access to information your ancestors could never dream. And your ancestors conquered the world. With half of your gifts, with nothing much beyond rudimentary communication skills and opposable thumbs, your ancestors became the apex predator of this planet. Do you get that? You are fucking mighty.

That is your birthright. That is who you are. And no animal naturally weakens itself. Tigers never starve themselves to look better to other tigers. Snakes don't slither over coals to show their bravery.

So the second dimension is not just power, but comfort with power. If you have a working brain and a decent amount of mobility, anyone on this planet could assassinate anyone else. I may be stronger than K, but she is comfortable enough with the strength and skill that she has that she has no doubt she could make me pay. People who are comfortable with power have to be respected.

There's a huge amount here that Tammy and I are slowly working on-- the ethical element, toxic relationships to power, whether power can be given or must be taken-- a ton of stuff. But I think the bones lie in these two things:
Power is about growth or stagnation.
Comfort with power is required to use it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Just a Few Thoughts

It looks like we might be on business stuff for a bit. And there will be some teaching stuff, too.
The blog is my place for thinking out loud. That was easier when it was the anonymous meanderings of  some random jail guard poking at internal stuff. The biggest mystery and challenge in my life right now is the business end. I want to get good at it because I hate being bad at anything. And I must do it without compromising my principles. So far, no problem.

This will be kind of random. I may not publish it (I already have several posts written that I'll never publish-- some too dark, some too personal). I may take each paragraph and expand it into a post. I don't know yet.

Thought One:
In this discussion, there is a cross-over to another project I'm working on. We have all been systematically lied to. There is a belief that is so common it is considered axiomatic, but I believe it started as a deliberate lie with a deliberate purpose:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."-- Lord Acton (titled, landed, seat in parliament...)
What better way to keep good people powerless than to tell them they will become bad people if they gain power? And it has the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy because once the edict is taken to heart, only people who are already bad seek power. So we see corrupt people in positions of power and assume that the power made them that way.
It's a lie. A systematic lie woven into the fabric of society for the express purpose of keeping good people from ever being strong enough to challenge those in power. If you believe this (and I did for years, an assumption so deep I never even considered challenging it) you have been brainwashed. And the brainwashing has made you a servant to your enemy.

Thought Two:
This is coming up in the discussion. Mac made a comment on the last post that earning a living and getting good enough to teach are both full time endeavors, and that made it hard to do both. The math doesn't work for that. You have to make a living anyway, why does a career at the Sheriff's Office not make it just as hard to do both? When we have arguments we can show to be mathematically false, what are we really arguing for? I think we are driven to preserve our own brainwashing.
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And, aside-- I do need to make a living, and I really only had two marketable skills when I came back from Iraq. But money is not how I keep score. I started teaching JJ because there was no one nearby who could play the games I wanted to play at the level I wanted to play them. I was creating my own playmates. My current goal: Weak people annoy me. They whine and complain and play bullshit little political games (and the loud blustery ones, whatever they tell themselves, are in the weak camp as well.) If I can't find enough strong people, it's up to me to make them. And that's probably more than you wanted to know about my inner motivations.
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Thought Three:
I'm doing everything wrong and it's working.
No advertising. Only social media is FB and that's still a personal page. I don't send out e-mail blasts. For that matter, I just have a few regional e-mail lists and people have to ask to be put on it. I don't list the agencies or special groups I've worked for. For the first three years I charged for a whole weekend what a few others in this field charge per person for a weekend. (Not quite true anymore-- it would be for the cost of about two people.) And there are very few openings left on my schedule this year, and it was almost full before I even opened it...

Thought Four:
That implies there are some universal principles that work, that go deeper than just common business wisdom. Not sure what they are, but I have a pretty good idea what works for me.



Monday, March 09, 2015

More Business Stuff

The last post hit some people a little hard. Got some conversations going in my e-mail and on facebook. So a little more thinking out loud here.

It offends me that there are some extraordinary martial arts masters (and master is a word I do not use lightly) who, in their old age, are living in poverty or on the edge. Pioneers in bringing thriving traditional systems to the states or Europe, people who started the entire Reality-Based Self defense movement. And they're living in shitholes, not even surviving on a pension because they were too busy following their passion to create a pension in the first place. It offends me. Maybe you know some of the people I'm talking about, maybe you don't, and maybe you know a few I've never met. But whether you know it or not, no matter what your lineage is, there is probably someone living in a crappy trailer park that you owe a huge debt to.

Part of what bothers me is that in many cases, it was preventable. It shouldn't have happened. A tragedy is when the flaws in the hero of a story spawn an inevitable demise. So it is here, and in almost all cases, the flaw was pride. And I'm subject to it just as much and in exactly the same way.

If you came up through the traditional Japanese arts as I did, you were probably pounded with the antipathy between the samurai class and the merchant class. Are you from that culture or that era? Hell no. But you probably absorbed the ethic that "fighters are above money." It will be compounded if you were raised poor in America, since one of the mechanisms society applies to keep people poor and powerless is to tell them the lies that only bad people make money and that power corrupts. (What better way to keep good people powerless than to tell them that gaining power will turn them into bad people?)

Caught in this belief, many of the best fighters and teachers deliberately work to be failures at the business side to preserve an ethic designed to keep them weak. In doing so, they serve their own enemies and ensure their own defeat.

Fighters are one thing. When you are ready to become a teacher you should be at least a step beyond that. You must be, at minimum, a strategist. Would any good strategist deliberately refuse to learn the way a new battlefield works? Would a good swordsman faced with guns not learn about guns? He would only refuse if he was stupid, or too proud.

And that's the first reframe, and probably the most critical. Use the pride: If the merchants are a lower class, are you going to lose at their game? Hell no. But in order to win, you have to learn the new rules. So what are you? A mere fighter who can't see beyond a single opponent? Or a true strategist?

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Advertising Problem

"I wasn't sure I should come," the student confided, "I heard stories and thought it would be really scary. But it's fun." She had a big grin.

Then Charles Lampshire writes this: "So today I've been thrown down the stairs, had my head knelt upon, a simultaneous wrist, finger and shoulder lock used whilst slamming me into a table, been punched in the balls, had my nose smashed with several elbows, had a scrap in a ladies toilet and even been fish hooked on a sticky dance floor. What a fantastic day! Can't wait to see what Rory Miller has cooked up for us tomorrow."    

That's awesome, by the way, Charles. Thanks. But it's the essential quandary. People who like the idea of rolling around on a sticky dance floor gouging, fish hooking and biting are going to show up. And they have fun. But people who think that is fun don't really need the training much. The ones who most need it are the people who will read that description, shudder and say, "I could never do that." And of course they could do that. And if they tried it, they would find it valuable and fun.

But it's hard to explain. "This time we have an office we are allowed to demolish in the environmental part, so expect to get thrown through the dry wall. But it will be fun and safe."

For most people fun/safe and heads slammed into tables don't go into the same categories. Of course nothing is perfectly safe. Including doing nothing.

This is another one I don't have an answer for.  Word of mouth, maybe.

Winding up a month in the UK heading home this afternoon.
Maryland and Oakland coming up this month.      

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Depth of Game

"How deep is your game?" has been coming up a lot, lately.
Erik Kondo, a friend and one of the CRGI team wrote a draft article about becoming a skilled conflict manager. Everything he wrote was absolutely true, but everything could also be distorted or even used against you, if you only relied on the surface interpretations. I offered to do a riff on Erik's article. Still working on it.

But wait, there's more. We did the first CRGI IDC (Instructor Development Course) in Sheffield over the last two days. It was about the methods of principles-based teaching. In one segment, the attendees created a list of difficult students and brainstormed solutions. They did good on the list and the solutions. But the answers were largely one-dimensional. You see behavior X. How do you stop behavior X?

And that led into yet another discussion of depth of game.

Because you can easily add another dimension to what you see that gives another dimension for solutions. Things happen in time, people change over time. This behavior didn't arise full blown, it escalated. And it could, possibly, be solved immediately-- probably with specific consequences-- or the behavior can be altered over time with different consequences.

And you can add the dimension of mental depth as well. Where is this behavior coming from? What are the reasons? If you teach a non-contact system (though I can't think why anyone would) and a student keeps making excessive contact, he might be an ass who needs to be taught a lesson. Or he might be a kid going through a growth spurt. Or a vet who is blind in one eye. Or a former victim who lashes out under stress. And that's another avenue to fix things.

And there is the solution dimension. Stopping the behavior is only one outcome or one piece of the potential outcome. How will your tactics change if you set your goal not to stop the behavior but to make a great student? In a cop class, you always have the disgruntled guy who was ordered to attend training. Most instructors have some kind of tactic to stop the spread of his or her verbal poison. Since ConCom, my goal has been to get them on my side before lunch.

Last example. We talked about Priniciples a lot in the IDC, as you would expect from a class on Principles-Based teaching. One of the principles I used as an example was structure. Many people, if they can distinguish structure from stiffness in the first place, think of using structure to conserve striking force "Hitting with bone."

And that's good and valid. But it's deeper than that. I think any true principle you can dive into as deep as you want to go. In under a minute, I demonstrated power, unbalancing, bone slaving, void defense, vectors along bones versus angled against, disruption... all just structure. And I completely forgot using bone to rest and resist in grappling or structuring as a defense to joint locks. And as cool as all that is, I know I'm barely scratching the surface.

My game could be much deeper.