Friday, October 06, 2006

Meditations on the Combat Mindset, part 2

In violent incidents there is a reaction I see everyday.

"S/He [fill in the blank] me.

I can't believe s/he [fill in the blank] me."

I wish that I had a nickel for every time I've heard a victim tell me that he or she "couldn't believe" that the attacker had assaulted them.

It seems to always come up during interviews on stranger assaults. "He hit me. I couldn't believe it."

And this is not just Suzie Soccermommie. Some weeks or so back, a very large, fairly well-trained young male officer in my department had a smaller, older inmate rush him from inside a cell; this officer just stood there staring at the inmate.

Fortunately, another officer was nearby, who dropped the inmate like a sack of potatoes, but I asked the young officer why he didn't do anything.

I knew the answer before the young officer said it: "'Dawg, I couldn't believe he'd do that."

Several years ago, Reno and I were bouncing in a violent little club. One of our bouncers was working the floor, when a bar patron suddenly walked up and -- out of the blue -- landed a haymaker on the bouncers cheek. The bouncer stood there in shock and watched his assailant turn around and do a victory dance for his buddies right there in front of the bouncer.

Bouncer didn't do a thing.

I walked up to the bouncer to check on him, and he said -- you guessed it: "He hit me. I can't believe he hit me."

Part of your combat mindset training has got to be dedicated to eliminating -- or at least reducing as much as possible -- this disbelief, this shock.

And, if you're smart, taking maximum advantage of it in your attacker.

The best way to do this -- and the only effective way that I, personally, know of -- is to prove to yourself that you can fight after getting hit.

You have to know, not only in your head, but you have to know in your blood and you have to know in your bones and you have to know in your guts, that if you get hit, you can fight through it.

Sometime during your training, you have to put on the padded headgear, put in the mouthguard, put on the gloves, and take some hits.

If your training does not include some form of safe full-contact sparring, then you are not training for combat. All that you are doing is dancing.

This is one of my biggest complaints regarding martial arts schools. The bouncer in my example above actually possessed a black belt in a widely-regarded martial art.

Up until that guy popped him on the cheek, he had never been punched. He had never done anything more than tap sparring.

And he had been issued a black belt, and was an assistant instructor.

Boggles my mind.

On the other paw, the majority of critters experience the same kind of shock.

I have had multiple, multiple critters tell me that "citizens don't fight".

Most critters know that if they go up against another critter, or a cop, there's going to be a fight -- but experience has taught them that if they go up against Joe Sixpack or Suzie Soccermommy, those folks going to be too busy in the I-can't-believe-he-hit-me trance to offer any meaningful resistance. And since their victims have never fought back before, they expect their crime to go the same way it's gone the past twenty, or fifty, or hundred times.

And this can be used to good effect -- if you have the right mindset.

As an example, well-dressed young lady stops at a package store on the way home to buy a bottle of wine.

As she is exiting the store, one of our long time Usual Suspects grabs her arm, shoves her against the wall, and demands the usual.

What he got was a bottle of understated, yet complex '95 Seville Estate Shiraz bounced off his ear, which rather neatly dropped him onto his butt on the sidewalk.

His not-quite-a-victim runs back into the store, calls 911, PD show up, and what's the first thing the critter says after being mirandized?

"She hit me. I can't believe she hit me."

He'd been doing this kind of thing for twenty years, and she was the first would-be victim to haul off and hit him -- and it just flat blew his mind.

Those moments of disbelief -- that I-can't-believe-she-hit-me shock -- gave her enough time to escape and get help.

Something to keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen.



Anonymous said...

I agree completely. If you're in shock, you're helpless.

And you need to wean yourself of the fear of being hit. Doesn't mean you should be reckless, but quivering in your boots isn't going to help you.

Martial arts dojos vary in quality, some will give you a good solid knowledge of how to fight, some will be lacking. I got a green belt in jujutsu, which is the main thing my dojo teaches, but we also have classes of mixed martial arts, mostly BJJ, but also boxing and kick boxing, and most recently we got a dedicated muay thai class.

I've taken solid blows from a boxer a couple of weight classes over me, with only minimal gloves(the ones we use for jujutsu, that allow for grappling.) It hurts, but I can keep fighting.

Even with all my knife defense training, I wouldn't want to fight someone who drew a knife on me, but if I had to, I'd do my best. Thankfully guns are almost a non-issue in my country, deaths by shooting is confined to criminal-to-criminal settlements and the odd hunter going insane from divorce and shooting his wife.

Anonymous said...

Little over a decade ago I was robbed at gunpoint.

I can still remember the event clearly, including my chain of thought as it was happening.

BG walked up, with his left hand reached into his pants at about the 8 o'clock position. Pulled out a .25 Raven, pointed it 90deg to his left (safely away from us) and racked the slide then pointed it at my friend's head and said "ok, give it up."

I remember the instant I saw the pistol, it had just barely cleared his wasteland and I remember distinctly thinking "Hey, thats a gun! This guy's going to rob us! This can't be real!"

The fact that I stood there like a lump and handed over my money like a chump has bothered me for years since (and its a big reason why I take this gun totin' pretty damn serious).

If I would have not stood there in disbelief I could have easily tackled the BG before he even got his right hand to the back of the slide, and my friend who was 6'2", 280lbs and 4% body fat who lifted weights 8-10 hours a day (spent the rest of his time moving pianos for his dad's company and reading Nietzsche) would have likely killed this kid with his bare hands.

I honestly don't remember any fear before, during or after ... only shock which turned into rage which eventually settled as shame.

About a week later we found him working as a busboy at a local Outback ... when we called the detective assigned to our case his only response was "Well nothing better happen to him now or I'll know just who to come looking for."

So aside from losing my fear of being perceived as a racist (robber was black and main reason we let him get close to us is that we didn't want to appear like typical white boys being distrustful of a brotha) I also lost a little respect for law enforcement. :(

Anonymous said...

zundfolge, your story is horrible. I'm really sorry it went down that way, especially the final stanza.

LawDog, as ever, you're zero-zero errors. Shack every time on this little blog. One of these days I'm going to cause your renal failure when I pay you a drink for all the the positive life-affirming life-loving lines you write.

You're good people, sir, and it was a pleasure and privilege sharing a forum with you.


Anonymous said...

Everyone has their own brand of martial arts. I've been taking Krav Maga for about a year, now, and have taken several good shots to the head. I'm still working on shortening the shock following a good hit, but I'm getting much better.

For anyone who has been robbed at knife- or gun-point, Krav Maga has excellent, intuitive defenses for these situations. Depending on your school, you'll learn these relatively quickly (like mine) or after several years and belts (which is how they do things at the Krav Maga center in Los Angeles, the US HQ).

Anonymous said...

When you go empty-handed against an assailant with a weapon, you should expect to see the business end of that weapon used on you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't fight. It just means that you shouldn't expect to walk away scot free.

People have survived being being shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, squished by a truck, and what-have-you and have not only survived, they defeated the bad guy.

LD should be able to confirm this. It's all in what LD calls the Combat mindset. Martial arts is fine, but whatever you do, discover that taste of smoke and blood and learn that you can still function.

Take a class, go to the gym, push that bag of meat you call a body around some. Training does pay off, there may come a time when it is the last thing left to you.

Anonymous said...

"Everyone has their own brand of martial arts."

True. But as Mr. Miyagi said- and it's the truth- best way to block a punch is don't be there.

Some of us, myself included, can't train with martial arts, specifically hand-to-hand combat, due to physical disabilities. I figure it's best not to let the bad guy get that close. And I was noticing zundfolge's story of disbelief watching the guy rack the slide on his .25... I figure for all the disbelief we may have, any more, we might as well just beleive anything we see happening to us or around us and deal with it.

My choice of martial arts... Ka-Chuck, ClickClickPao, and ShickSchickPao. But a firearm, knife, or other weapon or ability at hand-to-hand combat techniques are no substitute for situational awareness.

-mustanger98 on

THUNDER said...

Thanks for bringing this up LD. It frustrates me to no end to hear people talk about all the "goodies" out there like they are the "end all" solution to ANY problem or confrontation. DOn't get me wrong, some of the equipment out there works extremely well for what they were designed for; those folks just don't seem to grasp the concept that there is MUCH more to it than that.

Way, WAY back in high school a friend of mine was training under his father in Shun Ryu (sp). He was a brown belt, working on his Black, and his father was a third Degree Black belt. I wanted to learn, but didn't care much for belts...I just wanted to learn. At that point, I had dabbled in a few martial arts and was pleased to hear his dad say "We don't 'spar' here. It won't be love taps on the street; it won't be love taps in here either. Full contact, or leave my dojo."

That was my first lesson in combat mindset- we whopped each other. Of course, god love him, his dad liked getting into the square with us (especially after a bad day) to "vent". I learned just how much pain I can endure before being unable to fight back... I was unconscious! *grin* ...Just as important though *chuckle* I learned NOT to block a bo with my head. Anyway...

Since my highschool days I've trained in a few other martial arts and other h2h classes, and taught a few as well. Training is good, but I've also seen what happens when a person thinks that is all they need. If his mind isn't ready, the most highly skilled "technical" fighter doesn't stand a chance against someone that IS ready.

One of my first civilian firearms classes held another eye-opener for me. The instructor asked two questions at the beginning of class....

1) What is the most dangerous weapon in the world?

As you can guess, the responses ranged from knives to nukes.

He, very firmly I might add, said "WRONG! The most dangerous weapon in the world- and the ONLY true weapon in the world- is the human mind! Everything else is just a tool!"

Jaws dropped- he had our complete, and undevided, attention at that point.

2) Piture yourself as an animal. What are you?

Around the room we went- everyone seemed to picture themselves as a favorite kick-a$$ animal.

When we were done he said. "I'm a rabbit."

We were STUNNED that this firearms instructor pictured himself as the easter bunny- until he explained why...

He said "Anyone ever seen a rabbit fight? One day I watched a cat chase, then corner, a rabbit. Then, just as the cat was pouncing in for the kill, the rabbit rocked back and shot BOTH legs into the face of the cat. In the blink of an eye the predatory feline became a heap of blood and gore. As a civilian, I don't have any other job than protecting myself and my loved-ones. Period. I'll avoid, or run from, every hostile encounter, every time; but god help whoever catches and corners me - I WILL FIGHT, and will continue to do so until it is over for him...or US!"

Janean said...

Zundfolge...Don't feel shame, Man! At least you and your bud are alive! What would have happened if you didn't quite take him out before he cleared that piece? Better to lose a little money than your life.
That's part of being smart. Knowing when to "let it go", to give them what they want and walk away if you're outgunned.

'Dawg - I was shaking my head as I read. Never thought about it but you are SO right! That IS what they always say..."Can't believe he hit me!" TOO funny!

And too true!

MadCon said...


Haven't been in too many fights since I took up Judo 26 years ago. :-)

I dispair of these no/light contact martial arts. Either you know how to do something or you don't. There's no pretending in Judo, either you throw the other person, or choke them until they tap or armlock them until the tap or you don't. There's absolutely no case of "well, I would have thrown you, but I was going easy on you". You threw them or you didn't. Oh and because we have real throws, we learn to hit the ground hard and keep fighting. Goodness, back in my younger competition days, I would still be fighting in the air if someone managed to throw me. I also learned to fight anyway up during the groundwork. Beginers think that being on top is good for groundwork, but not if you know how to fight back. I've surprised a few fellows who were trying to keep me held down when I up and strangled them. That get's their attention.

I also shoot guns, but living in Wisconsin there is no opportunity to carry. Our governor has armed protection, but I can't carry a gun to defend myself, so I keep my Judo active and useful, because if I can't carry a weapon then I'll just damn well be a weapon myself!

kateykakes said...

From another "Life's Lesson's Post", great job, LD. It's one that will stay with me and have me thinking for a very long time to come.

Anonymous said...

Too true and it is, of course, the exact same thing you hear from "nice" and "safe" neighborhoods when one of the neighbors is found with one or more holes in his body and his residence well and truly sacked at the hands of goblins.

"But, but, we never thought it could happen here!"

Which, of course, will then be the reason they all give for NOT taking proper precautions prior to the event as in "locking your doors and making sure that you have your self-defense implements available and in working order."

"But, but, we don't need guns! This is a safe neighborhood! Nothing ever happens here!"

Guess what? "Nothing" just stopped happening in your nice, "safe" suburbian paradise.

Goblins know this as well. You don't see goblins prowling the worst neighborhoods in town if they have a choice. You don't see them scoping out houses in a neighborhood full of gun-toting good ol' boys with "Protection by Smith & Wesson" proudly plastered on their front doors, or signs saying "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again" in the front yard.

Goblins, at least the marginally intelligent ones among them, are risk-averse, so your "safe" neighborhood in which nobody would dream about owning an Eeeevil Firearm is nothing but a meal or, more likely, drug ticket for the next goblin to pass by.

"It could never happen here" is a fantastically stupid thing to say. It can, and DOES happen there. And everywhere else, for that matter.

As soon as you realize that, whereas there certainly are grades of safety in different environments, there ain't no such thing as a guaranteed "safe zone", as soon as you realize that attacks can and DO happen everywhere and keep your situational awareness radar attuned to your surroundings, you're much better off.

You may still end up among the dead, but you're much less likely to.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, two high school friends got into a mix-up with two guys from another school -this was after a basketball game, which we'd won. One friend played on our team - not that tall, very thin, and a quiet guy. He must have looked like an easy mark. When pushed, he broke the other guy's nose! End of fight. When asked why he punched instead of pushing, he said it would have been push, counter-push, and on until someone punched. He just thought he'd be better off being first. OldeForce

Anonymous said...

Hi Dog! Our school (Jinenkan) always emphasized the point you're making. To the point that they would not allow their students to compete in martial-arts tournaments, for fear they'd get into the "sport" mindset.

Anonymous said...

I would dare say this ties right back into carrying a gun. Criminals don't expect us to put up a fight, much less shoot them.

trainer said...

You can never know how you will react unless you experience that need.

I'm 5'5" and in my 6th decade. I started reacting as I was always the smallest kid around in a tough neighborhood. I enlisted in '68 and found that reacting quickly was not always a bad thing. The bad guys aren't always on the other side.

Since then, I've needed to react quickly a couple of times in the past 35 placid years and have done so without thinking. That sort of bothers me a bit.

I know what my reaction to a perceived threat is...linear and violent...I generally meet them halfway.

I honestly can't ever remember being surprised that someone would attack me. Generally the first reasoning thought that passes thru my mind is 'I hope I don't get in trouble for this', followed by 'Did I hurt him too badly?'. That comes of living in moonbat central most of my life.

Two attacks in 3 and a half decades do not a novel make, but at least I know I might have a surprise or two in me.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken, LawDog. My school schedule involves night classes from time to time and I know I should take more care than I actually do. Every once in a while, I wonder what my reaction would be if "something" happened. Hmm. After reading your original post and the ensuing comments, methinks I am not as prepared as I need to be. At least I know that now, though, and can do something about it.

Matt G said...

To quote Johnny Guest: "What's the first step to take in case of a snakebite? Kill the snake."

Anonymous said...

My reactions to attacks have generally been of the 'how much damage did I do / receive' variety. Apparently I'm one of the ones who drops out of 'normal' mode and into 'smash' faster than I conciously realize what's going on. Back when I lived in AZ right down by the border there were a few people who were surprised by how fast someone who's not pondering things can move. Most of them were also surprised to learn that I've got slightly longer than normal arms - a fact they generally learned when they found out they weren't quite out of reach.

Anonymous said...

That is another excellent post on this issue. Fortunately, not all modern martial arts schools simply train for tournaments, medals, trophies, etc... The key is finding one where the word "martial" isn't an ironic joke. They're out there.