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November 2012
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11/04/2012: "Magic not spoken here"

You can't plan for all contingencies - and neither can we when we train. (See the next to last paragraph.)

We don't try to plan for everything - but what we do try and do is to be aware of what's going on around us, defuse situations before they get out of hand, and deal with the situation if it becomes necessary to do so.

How do we do that?

We train in reality-based, practical self defense, and have since the dojo opened in 1990. In addition to "regular people" (which is most of us), this focus brings to our school law enforcement officers from various agencies and jurisdictions, as well as individuals with rank in other styles (including other ju-jitsu styles), who train with us and stay for the duration.

Our style is ju-jitsu, and a large part of our tactics involves closing with the attacker (if we're unable to leave), because it is often safer, and because it also gives us the opportunity to control and/or disable him. Because we are training to injure, safety is primary. We do "learn to fail", in the sense that we can't apply the techniques fully, or we'd run out of classmates very quickly. But we train to put ourselves (hands, arms, knees, body...) in the proper place to exert the proper control, and we apply it carefully, to the point where our partner acknowledges the control. If 1) it isn't properly applied, and/or if 2) the partner is an alien in terms of feeling pain or being loose jointed, then we 1) correct the lack of control and/or 2) learn how to deal with the aliens.

We also adapt. If we find that something we're teaching needs modification - either because of some of the factors noted above, or because a point is raised (in class or because we run across something) about a technique (e.g. the holy grail of Groin Strikes Shall Always Work for Thee), we examine it and if needed, either modify the technique or develop a means to address the issue.

Our students are one of the best sources of these sorts of things - sometimes because they "mess up" a technique in a new way (hey, if they do it in class - as attacker or defender - it'll probably happen in the real world!), other times because they like to think and to bring up angles that we may not have specifically addressed. (Sometimes it's because they haven't seen a defense yet, sometimes it's a "new" attack (which is generally a variation of an attack already familiar to them - there are only so many ways to slice a salami).)

Do we give a 100%, cast-iron, works-every-time-or-your-money-back guarantee that what we do will work, and you won't get hurt? Sure - it's called "leaving before anything happens". That works. Poke the bad guy in the shoulder and he falls down writhing? Not so much. What we try to do is to narrow the range of possibilities that would preclude the defenses from working, and train those into muscle memory and nerve reaction speed.

We also stress the students psychologically and physically in class, to provoke to some extent the same adrenaline dump they would get during an actual attack, so they can learn to deal with its effects. At the higher levels, this is done by spontaneous combat, first one-on-one, then with multiple attackers. This makes the defender think quickly on his feet, and adapt both to the attacks and to the attackers' differing responses. (We do realize that these are reaction drills; nobody's going to stick around and continue to defend when they can get rid of the attacker and run. But thinking on your feet is paramount in self defense.)

We don't do magic. If it doesn't work in dojo, with all the differing body types and possible reactions by defenders, then it won't work in the street. We train for contingencies and differences as much as possible, and with time, the students see for themselves where the Legos fit, and may even make some new ones of their own - they certainly find out which ones work best for them. But magic? That's for the movies, and what we're training for ain't the movies.

And: on top of all of the above physical and mental conditioning, we also make sure that all of us are above all aware of the legal, moral, and physical ramifications of what we do. We can't not teach that.

It's better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die. The very essence of self-defense is a thin list of things that might get you out alive when you are already screwed.
- Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence

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