Sunday, August 18, 2013

Heaven & Hell


No I don't mean the Black Sabbath song (R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio)... Well, not exactly anyway.

Here is an old Zen story about a monk and a samurai. It goes something like this:

A battle weary samurai came to see a zen monk to ask him the difference of heaven and hell. To which the monk replied to him, "Why would I give a murderous bastard like you such precious knowledge? You are probably too arrogant and stupid to even comprehend something so profound. You're a maggot. No, you are even less than a maggot, you are samurai."

Samurai were never treated this way in ancient Japan, so he instantly felt his rage well up inside of him as he drew his razor sharp katana from its scabbard to cleave the monk in two.

But the monk never flinched, he merely said, "That,  samurai, is hell."

Instantly the samurai understood the lesson and realized that he was going to kill the holy man because of his own ego tears filled in his eyes as he pushed his sword back into its scabbard and fell to his knees thanking the monk profusely.

"...And that," said the monk, "is heaven.

~Author unknown

Friday, August 9, 2013

Situational Timing vs. Technique Timing

They say timing is everything and I have to agree: Timing of what you do is important, but timing of when you do something is even MORE important. Techniques are more tangible and much easier to practice than situational timing so many people simply forget about its importance. This not only happens in martial arts and tactical training but also in everything in life, such as sales, management, teaching, business, parenting, dodging cars and capturing dogs.

Take sales for instance. There is good sales technique. It might look something like this:

The approach
The Introduction
Building Rapport
Ask Questions
The pitch
Overcoming Objections
The close

However good your sales technique is, your timing is even more important:

It's easier to sell dessert AFTER dinner. 

It's easier to sell gasoline to cars with empty gas tanks.

It's easier selling mortgages to couples who are LOOKING to buy a house, rather than AFTER they've already bought one.

Now if you have someone who is really good at their sales technique, but their timing sucks, the result is usually no sale. But it is easier to teach sales techniques than it is teaching timing, which is why most training focus on that. Not to mention if you know WHEN to sell you can get by with little to no technique. We saw this in the mortgage industry during the 1990's and 2000's leading up to the big economic crash in 2008. Anyone who could walk and chew gum could sell mortgages, because the timing was right.

I think you get the idea.

During a recent Krav Maga training session Rob Ford told me a great story. 

A dog gets loose and runs into a warehouse where there are three men working; two younger guys and an older gentleman. The young men want to help get the dog, so they very enthusiastically try every technique they know to get the dog to come to them, once that approach doesn't work they begin chasing it, trying to corner it, or flank it. The dog thinks this is a very fun game and continues to run around just out of reach of the two men. The young guys have a lot of energy, so they start to chase the dog more in earnest. They continue to try harder and run faster to get their techniques to work. However no matter how hard or fast they are, the dog still gets away. 

After the young men tire themselves out trying to catch the exuberant dog, the old man asks if he could give it a shot. The two young men chuckling agree, thinking that there is no way this old guy is going to be able to move fast enough to catch this dog. 

The old man reaches in his lunch box, takes out his ham sandwich his wife packed for him, takes the meat out and waves it around so the dog can see and smell it. The dog doing what dogs do best, eat, comes right to the old man, who gives the meat to him as he grabs its collar. 

That story has many lessons in it, but lets just focus on a few: A few posts ago I wrote an article called: Keeping It Playful & Light I talk about working smarter not harder. This story is a good example of that as well as situational timing.

This story also shows the difference between technique timing and, in this case controlling the situational engagement. The old man changed the engagement and thus controlled the situational timing. The young guys were trying to catch the timing of the dog, the old man inspired the dog to match HIS timing.

I heard a great quote from Dr. George Thompson creator of Verbal Judo: If they have something to gain or lose you have something to use. In this case, dogs are always inspired by food, thus the old man had something to use when it came to changing the situation. 

Ok, I know you are dieing to know about dodging cars, so here it is:

When is it easier to avoid getting hit by a car coming toward you in reverse?

1) When it is already coming toward you.

2) Before it is moving toward you.

Hopefully you said before it is moving toward you...

Soooooooooo, how can you tell? What are the warning signs?

Easy, in order for the vehicle to move toward you typically a few things have to be present so if we look for some signs we'll be ahead of the curve to situational timing:

1) Someone in the vehicle (usually...)
2) It has a reason to back up (usually...)
3) When the vehicle shift into reverse the transmission makes a distinct sound.
4) The reverse lights come on.
5) The vehicle typically rocks for a second in a very particular way before the driver begins to roll backward.

If you know what to look for you can (usually) easily avoid getting hit, or you can practice your dodging skills trying to move faster than the retreating car, or maybe do some body toughing exercises preparing you for the impact. Unfortunately most martial arts and tactical training practice "car dodging and conditioning" or technique timing skills rather than situational timing skills. Although much can be trained on this, the situational timing skills are difficult to explain well and typically come from hard earned experience.

Things typically don't happen in isolation, without warning. But if you know what to look for - the Situational Timing - you are much better off and way ahead of the game.

One example of this in a tactical situation would be what we call PCI's or Pre-Contact Indicators. PCI's are behaviors that preempt physically violent action. So if you are dealing with someone and the situation is tense here is a list of some things that might tip you off that they are going to get physically violent.

  • Thousand mile stare.
  • Tensing muscles - fists, arms, jaw, neck, pecks, etc.
  • Peacock posturing.
  • Change in voice level, pitch or speed (low to high, high to low)
  • Chambering to strike.
  • Shifting stance to strike.
  • Turn away (then back around).
  • Change in demeanor from overly nice to overly aggressive or the opposite.
  • Veins "popping out" on neck, face, head, etc.
  • Getting "In your face."
  • There are many more, but you get the idea.

PCI's along with your spacial proximity (how close you are from them and in what position you are in) can make all the difference between getting hit or not during a confrontation.

Here's another tactical situation:

When we train Krav Maga, we work on a fair amount of pistol disarms. That said, if you HAD to physically intercept the pistol (Meaning there was no other solution. You've tried walking away, talking your way out of it, and giving up property, but you felt the threat was still going to shoot you and your only chance for survival was to attempt to physically disarm the person). When do you think would be the best time to make the attempt to physically engage with the threat?

1) When he was looking right at you waiting for you to move so he could blow you away.

2) When he was distracted, disoriented, in transition, moving you or in some other way preoccupied with something other than you for a split second.

I hope you said #2.

Situational timing is no excuse for your tactics, techniques and technique timing to suck. Keep training on those as well so you can perform as best as you can when the time is right. Just keep in mind that it isn't as much about technique as people would like you to believe.

Last analogy:

Question: Who will win in a race between a Ferrari and an old beat up pick-up truck?

Answer: The one who decides WHERE the race will be held (controlling the situational engagement).

Most people choose the Ferrari because it is overtly faster, however it is only faster under certain conditions. If the driver of the truck gets the Ferrari to race in sand dunes, her truck has the advantage.

It's not as much about the vehicle as the conditions of the race. If you learn how to control the situation better you can succeed more often and with much greater ease.

We have a maxim at our academy:

Train your body like a SOLDIER.
Your brain like a GENERAL.
And your mouth like a Diplomat.

As always...

Keep going,

Are You The Problem?

I saw his lips moving but I wasn't listening... After all, he SHOULD KNOW BETTER than to do what he did, right?! I mean really, who does he think HE is?! I felt my sense of entitlement rise up from the pit of my stomach and erupt out of my mouth. I began spewing, no vomiting my words on him at an increasing level of volume.

The situation becomes more heated as I gave him a piece of MY mind and told him the way it IS.

I think to myself that he has to EARN my respect before he gets any from me.

...and the situation escalates even more, raising to a more dangerous level.

Over what you're wondering? World peace? No. Minority rights? No. The life of an innocent bystander who was put in harms way? Nope, try again. How about a parking space, or cutting in front of someone in line at the Secretary of State or something similarly small and insignificant in the big picture of life, yet somehow of great importance to you in that moment.

How do we know when WE are the Problem?

When we get overwhelmed by emotion we can become the problem. It is natural to have emotions, but when they are ruling you and your decision making abilities you can become over run by them, sometimes resulting in poor decisions.

In the moment fighting for what's "right" is going to feel like the thing to do, however when you regain your composure you may think differently. So, how can we better maintain our balance, our professionalism and decision making abilities? Simple (not to be confused with easy!). Practice being grounded.

 There are two types of grounding:

1) Tactical Grounding: Your ability to gain and/or maintain a balanced emotional state while in the heat of the moment.

2) Foundational Grounding: Your overall state of emotional balance.

Here are some strategies regarding each state:

Tactical Grounding:

Here are some tips on clearing your head, staying calm or regaining your emotional composure during a stressful situation:
  • Take a deep breath & count to three.
  • Q-Tip: Quit Taking It Personal!
  • Stay calm & respectful.
  • Keep Focus on the Bigger Picture, the main goal.
  • Don’t let yourself get pulled into arguments.
  • Work toward Most Good / Least Harm for Everyone.
  • Sometimes you have to be smart & calm enough for the both of you!

Foundational Grounding:

Foundational grounding is really about how you live your life. If you mindfully take better care of yourself and have a healthy outlook on life you are more likely to stay cool, confident and make better decisions under pressure. Do you really think the guy who is road raging about "HIS" parking space you just "stole" from him is acting that way just because of that incident? Probably not. My guess is that there are larger problems inside of him that he hasn't dealt with and this is an excuse to vent his anger out on someone because he feels "justified" that he's right. Crazy I know, but think about it. He may be the nicest guy in the world having a bad day... or he truly may be the maniac you'll read about in tomorrows news, you'll never know if YOU'RE the part of the problem too. 

So, here are some things to consider regarding developing a habit of being Foundationally Grounded:

  • Embracing the Universal Life Value that ALL Life is To Be Respected and Protected and if we don't extend that sentiment, others will resist, sometimes violently. 
  • Work toward Most Good / Least Harm For Everyone in ALL Situations. 
  • Get Enough Sleep / Rest
  • Regular Exercise
  • Balanced Diet
  • Quiet Time / Meditation
  • Service to Others
  • Connection with something larger than yourself
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Find a Mentor Who Embraces These Ideals
  • Read Inspiring Stories, Watch Inspiring Movies, etc.
  • Keep Learning & Growing as a Person
  • Closure: Take Care of Your Regrets
  • Remember karma: We reap what we sow
Here is a secret: The other person or group that you are dealing with will tell you EXACTLY how they need to be managed by what they say or do. However if YOU are part of the problem, you'll never see it, because you'll be blinded by your emotions or bias. If you are part of the problem you put everyone (including yourself) in greater danger.

This approach is not just tactically superior, it's a makes for a Better Life!

Keep going!

All the best,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keeping It Light & Playful


When it comes to training in martial arts, defensive tactics, shooting and many other things in life, most people think that trying harder and going faster seems like it would be the best way to get better. They will say things like: "That's the way someone would really attack you." or "What if I do THIS." They think that their own performance will increase if they just go a little harder and faster. Often one's ego is tied up too much in their training and the perceived problem, so their head gets wrapped up in fear, so they resist, they hang on. What are we afraid of? Fear of losing, fear of looking bad, fear of getting hurt, fear of violence, fear of not knowing, fear of a lot of things... fear of the unknown. And that fear leads us to do strange and often counter productive things.

I have heard echos of a different method. A way that takes guts, diligent effort, perseverance and a certain amount of faith. Here are some signposts along that path:

"Fast isn't fast. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."


"I believe that everyone who trains jiu-jitsu knows how to go hard. We know how to fight for a dominant position and for a submission. What we need help with is how to relax, how to flow. We need help in our transitions and being efficient with our movements. The following information will make it clear why the Keep It Playful movement is so important and how you can Keep It Playful the next time you step on the mat." 

~Ryron Gracie

"Understand? Good. Play!"

~Masaki Hatsumi

It is difficult to slow down, relax and let go in practice and in life. However you will find that over time you will develop the new habit will help you to increase your performance and Keep Going.

If you plan on training for your entire life, you can't abuse your mind, body or spirit. So you have to keep most of your training healthy AND fun, or you'll just stop doing it. Yea, sure you have to ramp things up once in a while, get serious, go hard (while keeping it safe). However, the majority of your training you should... well, actually enjoy. If you don't, I don't know how you plan on doing it for any length of time. Chances are you WON'T!

I have been training (martial arts/defensive tactics) for over 35 years and I've seen literally thousands of people come and go, due to lack of interest/perspective, getting hurt or because of their egos.  There is a time to take things serious, but people tend to take themselves and their approach TOO seriously. The politics, the ego, the smack talk, the drama, the on-line "debates," the back stabbing, the "my style/system is better than yours" crap, blah, blah, blah... Here's what I have to say about that: Shut up and train! =)

If you are training to be a better protector, GREAT! Me too! We may have differences in opinions on the details (styles/approach), but if we are both training to protect everyone's LIFE VALUE, then we are at least going toward the same goal. I don't really care to debate who's punch is better or disarm is more effective. Yes I AM biased, I do the things the way I do because I do think it is the most efficient way (at least up to this point), otherwise I'd be doing those things another way. AND I'm sure you feel the same about what YOU'RE doing. I really don't want to get into a debate over these things. Those type of discussions typically end up like debating politics, philosophy and religion. I'd rather spend the time training.

Knowledge is knowing the difference between working hard and working smart. Wisdom is doing it!

~Craig Gray

I have to be honest: Sometimes I'm a wise man, other times I have to smarten up... But I'm getting better.

I guess I'll just Keep going!

All the best,