I've been spending some time lately following Michelle's blog at Just A Thought. She is a student and teacher of Okinawa Karate and Tai Chi. The blog covers a variety of topics and has a very thoughtful and positive vibe. Click here or the link at the side of my blog.
I have been following the spirited debate over the Seattle Police confrontation video. While at first I believed it might turn several blog authors against each other, it appears that there is a good amount of respect out there for different opinions.
No one seems to dispute that the pedestrians should not have resisted.
No one seems to dispute that police officers should be able to defend themselves.
For most, it seems the issue is the type and the amount of force used by the officer.
It is important to note that no one except the officer knew what he was thinking and feeling at the time. It is always easier to be a Monday morning quarterback.
One of the bigger challenges in law enforcement is the effective and appropriate use of force. Equally important is how that use of force is viewed by the public.
I am the first to admit that a punch is not always the ideal choice, and often it doesn't look very good to onlookers. Sometimes a joint lock or restraint might be viewed as more acceptable even if it caused the same amount or more injury to a person. To some the punch appears to be a technique used when one loses control.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the punch. It often looks bad and it has a high rate of injury for the puncher. One of the many reasons that I chose Jiu Jitsu (or it chose me) is that it provides options.
Police officers, in general, are well trained in areas of true combat. Most are quite proficient in a gun battle or any fight for survival. The area that is often lacking is in-between a peaceful encounter and a truly violent one.
For me, Jiu Jitsu has provided the area to explore these areas. The techniques contained are progressive and adaptable. I am provided the opportunity to explore situational simulations to test out various options. I will often work with my Sensei and J.C. to figure out options for dealing with various amounts of resistance.
Nothing tests control techniques better than trying them on a resisting opponent. Actually, nothing tests any techniques better. I thing we can all learn from this type of work.
When we train consistently, we strive to achieve that state of Mushin, or empty mind. In this state, we can react instinctively to situations, without thought or hesitation.
I know many may feel I may be siding with the Seattle officer, but perhaps the only technique available to him was the punch. Or perhaps not. I don't know him.
The point? I train to have instinctive options available to me. I practice realistic situations to prepare myself for various types of situations. If I had been in the same situation, would I have thrown a punch? I'd like to think I would have had other options at hand, but who knows? Maybe I would have. Maybe I wouldn't. Then again, that's one of the many reasons I continue to train.
To all those out there, let's continue to share opinions and feel free to debate issues with an open and respectful mind.
I hesitated to comment on this video for a while. It is stirring up so much emotion and debate that I wasn't sure I wanted to discuss it on this blog. Then again, spirited debate can often be a valuable source for some self reflection. It also provides an opportunity to consider other perspectives.
Perspective is an interesting thing. It drastically affects the way you see events and the world around you. It is shaped by your life experiences and is formed in no small way by your pre-conceived ideas about a variety of topics.
I've read comments and opinions ranging from people applauding the officer's actions and commending his self control to those that have demonized him, saying he is all that is bad in the world and law enforcement.
I read one comment that basically said that the officer was nothing but a power hungry bully who liked to beat people up, especially women, and likely only took the job to do so. I also read some comments that under no circumstances whatsoever was any officer justified of these actions in a situation such as this.
I have difficulty with absolutes.
For those that feel this way, I ask you to consider the following:
If that officer had recently been attacked by two women and disarmed, would your perspective and opinion change?
If the jaywalker or the woman who was struck was male, would your perspective or opinion change?
If both the jaywalker and the second party were male, would your perspective or opinion change?
What if any or all of the above was true but the officer was female. Would your perspective or opinion change?
I bet they would, at least somewhat.
I don't ask these questions to try to convince people one way or the other. You should hold dear the things you believe passionately about. What I do ask is that people try to look at things from different perspectives before making those beliefs.
I once had an interesting lesson in perspective. A colleague took a piece of paper and folded it so that when you turned it on it's edge, it had 3 sides of a square, one side showing forward, and one to each side, left and right. 3 people sat at a table, one directly across from it, one directly to the left and one to the right. Each side of the paper was then labelled A,B and C. When the people at the table were asked what they saw, each said a different letter. They were each looking at the same item, but they all saw something different.
We must always strive to look at all angles or perspectives, whether it be a video on YouTube, a technique we're trying or another martial art or artist. Once we have a complete picture, we can form our opinions with a greater degree of conviction.
I encourage everyone to arrive at their own conclusions on the video. I also encourage them to put themselves in the officer's shoes. What would you have done? I will mention that I respected the fact that Chris at Martial Development challenged various people to demonstrate what they would have done with multiple attackers to deal with the situations.
No matter what your position on the officer or the video, this challenge encourages people to really look at the situation. What could the officer have done better? What are the challenges with more than one person? What would you have done? Have you ever tried techniques on someone that was truly resisting?
Right or wrong, we should all strive to learn from this type of event.
This video and the issues it raises will likely result in some future posts discussing more law enforcement related topics, and some of the reasons I study the martial arts.
My Sensei brought out 'the cane' the other day. He can turn the everyday cane into a fantastic tool for self defense. It has all the benefits of various straight sticks plus the bonus of having a hook for grabbing, trapping etc. It can be used for both offense and defense.
The cane is versatile and effective. In most places in North America, it's also legal for everyone to have one. Now if you're only carrying it purely to use it as a weapon, that's a different story. A crow bar at a construction site isn't a weapon but one carried into a bar most likely is. Know the law in your area.
Moving on. The cane is a superior tool. It has several striking surfaces, a neat hook, it extends your reach by several feet, it feels good in your hand and can block incoming attacks from punches, kicks, grabs, chokes and weapons.
As with any weapon, any technique you learn should be an extension of your unarmed attacking method. Techniques should work empty handed first and then the cane or tool should follow the same path. Using a weapon or tool should add to and strengthen the technique, whether it be better reach, more power or increased leverage. You should not learn entirely new concepts which only apply to use with a weapon.
This approach is what makes some of the Filipino arts so effective. The techniques are all basically the same. In most systems of Kali and Escrima that I've seen, the techniques are learned first with weapons, then transitioned to empty hand, the reverse of many Japanese based styles. When combat happens, the movements must be ingrained and the mind doesn't have time to sift through different movements based on what might be in your hand.
Take a look at some cane techniques. Try doing technique you currently practice with a cane in your hand. See the opportunities that present themselves. Use one in Randori.
We often joke that we are probably some of the only people who are tempted to cross the street when we see someone walking with a cane.
And hey, apparently they can be used as a handy walking stick too.
I've been doing some preliminary research and reading on fascia. Fascia is a band of fibrous gel- like connective tissue that runs all through our bodies. It surrounds our muscles and essentially is part of all our movement.
Recent research is indicating that fascia plays far more of a role in the generation of power and strength. Some are theorizing that there really are no isolation movements for muscles. Fascia plays a part in all movement.
This elastic type skeletal covering acts like a rubber band. If you can stretch it and release, lots of power is generated.
An athlete trainer I know tried to explain some of what fascia does and how manipulating it can cure or improve other areas. And the area where the problem surfaces may not be where you treat it. (anyone see a traditional Chinese medicine tie-in?).
The trainer said when you tuck in a dress shirt too tightly, you have trouble raising you arms all the way above your head, indicating a shoulder mobility problem. By loosening the shirt at the waist, un-tucking it a little bit, you can easily lift your arm. Fascia is sort of like the shirt. Stretch it properly and other problems can clear up.
This is an oversimplification of course, but it gives an idea.
It is theorized that Bruce Lee's one inch punch is a result of a healthy fascia and his ability to use his body as one, stretching and snapping his rubber band like fascia.
Fascia also learns to adapt to what it's subjected to over time. This may be why our hip movement is so poor. Being a generation that spends that majority of it's time sitting, the fascia adapts to being in this position. This is why it's so important to stretch out your hips.
Martial artists know that power comes from the hips, so this is particularlyrelevant. Active functional stretching is important for mobility, power and injury prevention.
I will continue to research these findings and see if adding some of the recommendations has a positive impact on my training and movement.
I've spent a fair amount of time reading martial art blogs. There is a ton of good information out there. From time to time I will add links on my blog to other blogs that I feel are of high quality. I plan on being fairly picky. They do not have to be about Jiu Jitsu but they must convey a positive message about the study of martial arts.
One blog that I have spent quite a bit of time reading is Lori O'Connell's Jiu-Jitsu Sensei blog. She covers a wide variety of topics and from what I've seen, is a very talented Jiu Jitsu artist. I especially like the way she looks at the martial arts. She clearly practices her craft with reality in mind. I don't always agree with everything she posts, but I enjoy her perspectives on lots of different topics.
Check out the blog here. I've also added it to the links section of this blog.
I've been watching some ads lately for the new Karate Kid starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. Now, normally I don't make comment on movies that I haven't seen, but each time I see the ads, I am bothered by the following.
#1. Jaden Smith is a little too young to play the character.
#2. Jackie Chan says he is going to teach young Mr. Smith 'real Kung-fu". Kung-fu? Isn't it the Karate Kid?
I have no issue with the film being remade/re-imagined. The original was also a great film. I just feel that if you call it the Karate Kid, it's Karate that should be taught.
Given my concerns, I will likely still see the movie at some point. I am always interested in any film that positively portrays the martial arts.
Perhaps the film will change will my mind on these points.
One of Bruce Lee's ideas was that in the study of any fighting art, you should keep the techniques that are useful and work for you and get rid of the ones that don't. He believed that you should question what you learn and not study by rote.
This concept is sound. There is no point endlessly practicing techniques that do not work for you. As with many topics, there is a caveat. In order to throw out what is not useful, first you need to learn and fully understand what it is you are discarding. You need to fully explore, understand and nearly master a technique before relegating it to the trash.
When I first learned the technique Sankyo, I felt it was unrealistic and believed I would never really use it. I was tempted to give it no more thought or practice and clear it from my mind. Now, Sankyo is one of my favorite techniques. It's one of my 'go to' defenses from strikes, chokes, bear hugs etc. I have learned how to enter into it from a variety of angles and from a variety of attacks. I can apply it causing extreme pain to my opponent while keeping myself out of harms way.
I first learned it from a handshake. The likelihood of applying it from a handshake is low, but it's a good way to learn the mechanics of the technique.
It is important to be critical of what we learn. We cannot be slaves to curriculum if techniques don't work for us. We need to adapt to our body styles and our abilities. If we want to study a martial art for it's combat applications, we cannot fill our heads with unrealistic techniques. However, our minds must remain open. We cannot judge prematurely.
It's the paradox of the martial arts. First you must practice and master a technique before you know if you can throw it away. You must learn it before you un-learn it.