Thursday, April 24, 2014

Baseline & The Sandwich Artist

My patience was thin; I was feeling a little tired, under the weather & grumpy, so I went to Subway for some soup...

Me: Do you have soup?

Sandwich Artist: No not until next fall.

Me: (A little disappointed) OK (looking at all of their posters showing their NEW special pork sandwich) How about your pork sandwich special?

Sandwich Artist: Sorry, we're out of pork.

Me: Fuuuuuuu#k... Ok give me a minute.

Sandwich Artist: Ok.

(A minute later)

Me: How about a Flatizza?

Sandwich Artist: Sorry but our turbo oven is broke.

Me: No, I think I'm good thanks. (Exit). (Thinking to myself, you've GOT to be kidding me!? WTF! Really?!).

It was VERY difficult being respectful and polite, but I was mindful enough to understand that it wasn't the gals fault they didn't have what I wanted, so I refrained from taking it out on her. Instead I smiled treated her nicely and as many do vented later on Facebook. In a while I probably won't even remember this incident and neither will the girl. However She probably would have remembered for a long time if I was some rude jerk who treated her disrespectfully because they didn't have what I wanted. So I at least felt good about that, even though my belly was still empty for the time being.
Funny story that kinda resembles an old Seinfeld episode of the Soup Nazi! "No soup for you!" 
The real lesson here is you can't always control what happens to you, but you CAN control how you respond to it. It is easy for things to get blown out of proportion when WE become part of the problem. 

Now I suppose I could've yelled at the girl who was serving me. I could have made a big scene or got the manager, or written or stormed off to show my displeasure, but what would have that done? AND how big of a deal was it in the first place?As a matter of fact, what is the bigger deal:

1) The person telling me about something that was out of their control: Subway not having what they advertised 

2) Me disrespecting someone and treating them badly because I didn't get my way?

My thought is that the greater offense between the two would have been me disrespecting someone over something so trivial. 

In the courses I teach we talk a lot about having a good BASELINE. Meaning that you are doing your best to not be part of the problem. This simple act can be difficult sometimes and almost impossible at others.
Our internal conflict can cause or contribute to the very problems we are faced with. Not to mention if we get caught up in the storm of emotions how can we  be part of the solution? So, if we can't control our emotions, they'll control us and then we'll probably add to the problem that we are trying to deal with. 
Here are some suggestions for what a good Baseline is:

1) See Conflict as an Opportunity.

2) Use an appropriate Greeting.

3) Tactical Grounding - Breathe

4) Eye of the Storm – Calm, Cool, Confident

5) Separate the persons LV from their Actions

6) LISTEN! (Ask clarifying questions, why are they behaving that way?)

7) Show Empathy (Acknowledge their feelings, act respectful, etc.)

8) Watch your Tone. (It’s how you say what you say)

9) Strive for Most Good, Least Harm for Everyone!

10) Be a Protector of EVERYONE, especially the person behaving poorly.

11) Focus on Solutions.

12) Find Common Ground.

13) Help the person Save Face. 
14) Be patient.
15) Have a Plan if the person does not change their behavior.
These things are simple but not easy, especially when you are stressed. 
Here's a little exercise to put you back on track when you need it:
1) Take a deep breath & Align Your Spine.
2) Put on your Game Face.
3) Say to yourself, I can do this, I’m a Protector!
               Finding space within yourself to Respect, Protect & Empower yourself and others while you are feeling aggravated, threatened or stressed is difficult and it takes the right perspective, appropriate tools and of course constant practice. If you are looking for more skills and practice with this come train with us at:
Keep going!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2D vs. 3D Wasa by Tony Notarianni

Jack Hoban teaching the USMC at Quantico VA.

"You are trying to do a technique!" said Jack. I knew I was, old habits truly die hard. Such a statement would have sounded like madness to me years ago, but not these days. We had been practicing some concepts from Ichimonji no Kata, and at first I had been in a fairly comfortable zone. I had been watching the tactical space I was familiar with, I knew the terrain. As we moved on to different shaped attacks, and different directions to maneuver, started including Gyaku and other forms, I started to struggle.

Jack mentioned that we students were mostly doing two dimensional techniques. In other words, we were trying to 'push' our opponents down (one direction) and in order to do this we were trying to unbalance them with a lateral movement (second direction). He pointed out that such techniques might not work because the opponent must simply resist sufficiently in two dimensions to prevent them. If the opponent is stronger than you, or has fast reactions, they have a good chance of beating/escaping your technique. Instead we were told to use three dimensional movements, adding an extra direction of movement to the form. This makes it much harder for the opponent to resist and converts their resistance into further imbalance. This is much more efficient.

I knew this, I should have known this. I even teach this. So what was wrong?

I was in the wrong place. A three dimensional technique uses Kaname (a spiraling action), which requires you to be in the Kukan no Kyusho (correct point in space), and you can only find that point if you are paying attention to the changing tactical environment.

I have been taught many times the precedence of Ethics first, then Tactics, and finally Technique. It is a natural law of nature. If you are focused too much on doing a specific technique you might lose focus on the tactical space. If you lose the tactical space your technique will become two dimensional. It might work, it might not, depending on your opponent. By focusing on being in the correct tactical position as a priority, the technique can become much more efficient. You don't have to 'try' so much.

So when I hear my teacher say "You are trying to do a technique!", perhaps I should try to be more tactically positioned instead. I already know how to try and 'force' a technique if I am in the wrong place. If I want to learn and improve I need to start focusing on the higher priorities.

by Tony Notarianni

Visit Tony's Blog Site:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paper, Rock, Scissors & the Power of Three

Paper - Rock - Scissors
Paper covers rock. Rock smashes scissors. Scissors cut paper.

Who can forget Paper, Rock, Scissors (PRS)?! Do you remember playing it as a kid? It did everything from settle small disputes and dares to being a pass time during long car rides. I remember one time when my brother and I were kids, we were headed Up North riding in back of dad's pickup truck (back in the day when that sort of thing was actually legal... I know shocking isn't it?!). Anyway, it was cold and boring in the back of that camper top, so we began playing PRS. Now you have to understand, when my brother and I played PRS it was with a lot of "vigor" that only young brothers can have toward one another. You see it wasn't just a matter of paper covering rock, rock covering scissors and scissors cutting paper, oh no, that would have been to forgiving. No, when we did it, it didn't mean much unless it hurt! So, when the paper covered rock we would slap the inside of the losers wrist or on the hand to drive home the point that it pays to be the winner and sucks to lose! We would first wet our finger tips because we thought that it made the slap more painful. Rock would SMASH the scissors. Which meant that you would use the meaty part of your fist (hammer fist) and hit the hand of the loser. And as for scissors cutting paper; the winner would squeeze, twist and bend the fingers of the loser between his pointer and middle fingers, nearly breaking bones as a morbid sort of victory ritual to get the point across. 

We must have been doing this with such enthusiasm because apparently we were rocking the truck so much that our folks took notice. Mom and dad yelled at us a few times. I remember my brother and I trying to play the game but with less fervor so we didn't get in trouble. Funny the thought of playing the game straight without our traditional punishments never really occurred to us, so tired of telling us to stop, my dad finally pulled the truck over and trumped our PRS strategy with his belt hits ass tactic! (Also illegal in today's world... geeze dad, you'd be in prison for shenanigans like that today!) Very effective I must say. After that we calmed down and stopped our game, we tried to sit quietly on our now sore bums, until we reached the Mackinaw bridge. 

So what does my childhood story of stupid games, unsafe transportation practices and abusive child disciplinary actions have anything to do with anything? Well besides realizing that growing up in the 70's & 80's was much different than it seems to be today... I didn't really give that old game much thought until recently.

What I came to realize after decades of teaching people how to live more empowered lives is we have a hard time remembering much more than 3 concepts at a time. It was when I remembered that old game that every kid used to play that it struck me! 


That's right. I saw that people had a hard time remembering a laundry list of concepts and details, but they could remember three or maybe four things without much problem at all. This was important especially under stress when we actually want LESS options to choose from rather than more. With that in mind I began breaking everything I taught, every concept, strategy, tactic and technique down into three's or sometimes four concepts or groupings. The more I stick to that formula the more effective I saw students absorbing and applying the new concepts. 

Once I figured this out and saw its success the challenging part became formatting and adapting everything I teach into this new method. So far, so good though! It is coming along well!

Now you might not be a trainer, but think of ways that the Paper, Rock, Scissor method can streamline your life and career?! Communications, goals.,Training methods, things to practice, points to cover in a meeting, you name it. If you give this a try you might surprise yourself in how effective it is and how much of a profound difference it can make when trying to communicate, share ideas or clarify & set goals.

Learn how to share the point you are trying to get accross in no more than four (4) points. Keep in mind each point can have up to four (4) sub points and those sub points can in turn have sub points etc. but the main concept is to break things down to their most important elements in a clear and concise way to make things more learn-able and useable.

Give it a try!

Paper, Rock, Scissors... On three...


Friday, April 4, 2014

Martial "Way," not Martial "What" by James Morganelli

 Jack Hoban crossing my (Craig Gray's) "T" before I get my next punch off

We had our annual visit from Jack Hoban recently. He normally comes into Chicagoland for two things, well, three: The ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainer's Association) conference, where he presents the "Ethical Protector" mindset to trainers from around the world, a Bujinkan seminar, and steak. The best we've had is at Keefer's, but as they were closed, Mastro's filled in nicely.

In presenting the Ethical Protector, Jack is both lecturer and coach. He talks some and then gets butts out of seats to get physical. It's at this point things get confusing, even for law enforcement veterans.

There's something about maneuvering tactically that many folks don't grasp or appreciate. It's by far the most difficult concept to communicate, even though it's also the most intrinsic and important. 

The simple of it is: Understanding tactical maneuvering is about understanding ethical maneuvering. There it is - the big secret. Rub your eyes and read it again. 

But this is grist for a larger post (some other time). My point here is in highlighting the difference between training a "technique" and a "method" approach.

When teaching different groups it's clear which of these wins out: Folks are utterly fascinated with techniques to the tune of blah, blah, blah: "What do I do against a punch?" "What if they kick?" "Can I show him his own beating heart before I kill him?" The blah-blah-ers will always want to know the secret Mitsukoshi Flying Demon attack rather than some dusty, old method, even if that method is the key to everything else. Folks are funny that way.

It's easy to see why: Techniques detail WHAT you are going to do. First, you do THIS, then you do THAT. But here's the problem: It may not even help, even if you do THIS then THAT 10,000 times. The reasoning here is simple: Sole reliance on THIS then THAT 10,000 times, presents 10,000 opportunities to instill reactive movements without regard to vulnerabilities in the form of potentially deadly tactical consequences. 

It's what happens when you train techniques in a sterile box, outside of any relational context. Contradictory, but true none the less: One can actually train themselves to deny their own use of THIS then THAT, accounting, at least partially, for the dissonance many long-time martial artists (and Police officers) palpably feel from the training mat to the Tasty-Freeze parking lot afterwards.  

Recently we had a fellow drop in for training. Nice guy. He told me he was a black belt in several different arts and had been training for 26 years. I believed him. I believed him because of the way he held himself, his manner, and his demeanor. I watched how he approached, made contact, spoke, and comported himself. He shook my hand firmly and looked me in the eye. And so, I took him at his word. From these small details I could tell he was a guy who had extensive training. He then proceeded to get on the floor with us, bringing along his 26 years of training, and be all but useless. 

It became clear later that the only reason he had shown up was to see our technique. That was it. That was all he was interested in. It wasn't about what our perspective offered him, it was all about the technique. Now, had he been able to actually identify any technique, he could have then gotten his expert on, saying, "Yes, interesting. But our technique is like this!" It gave me the distinct feeling of being "auditioned" for comparison. What a shame he didn't find any techniques, he could have at least left satisfied, which he did not - he left confused and never came back.

This fellow saw his training through the lens of technique. I see it through method, one that can give me a tactical advantage no matter the technique. I am not especially concerned about your technique. I am, however, concerned about you gaining advantage over any opportunity that I might create to prevent such. 

Jack often speaks about these various aspects through this same kind of ideology - a method point of view. And the same is true when he speaks about ethics. Ethics is not some THIS then THAT which you either know or do not - "Know this point and you will be ethical." That's a lot like saying, "Know this technique and it will save your life." Hogwash! 

Firearm Retention Technique
Step 1: Freeze.
Step 2: Place death grip on gun.
Step 3: Repeat step 1. 
Training has to do with the WAY we habituate the alignment between internal body dynamics and external ethical/tactical space, to be able to apply WHATever kind of knowledge or information (technique) we have been taught, learned, or discovered, within any given context. Which is why technique alone does us no good. In fact, it could very well work against us, doing the opposite of what we hope and want it to do. A lot like this cop found out. [Note: This is not the time to find out.] 

The WHAT part, the knowledge part - the technique - is always added at the end, like the vocabulary of language. We have to first organize and align these various words and especially the manner with which we utilize them - their cadence and tone - to formulate and apply them to the concepts or thoughts we are trying to articulate and communicate. This speaks to how well we truly understand their capacity for use. Were we to reverse the process and simply yell these individual words out in conversation, no one would rightly comprehend us no matter how cool the word was. 

So, what's needed is a method - a WAY - to orient the use of THIS then THAT to clearly demonstrate how one applies them under given circumstances. Cars don't drive themselves - techniques on their own don't work. They must always be controlled, directed, operated by some form of discernment. This is so we don't crash. 

In any car there is the brake and gas pedals which are pressed to activate control of the car to stop and to go. But it's the "feel" of the operation of the car that allows one to discern when and how the brake and gas pedals are actually applied. In a snowstorm, one does not simply jam on the brake, lest one windup with the driver behind you as a passenger. 
One does not simply rely on technique ... 
So, we learn how to drive defensively - mindful of other drivers and conditions around us. And not just drive defensively in any car, but most especially, in yours, because yours is the car you drive. Just like your own body. 

It's the method that's of true value. The method will always show us the "way" that the "what" needs to be done.