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The New York Daily News brings us the account of the guy who took out a knife wielding sociopath in NYC.

First off, my hat is off to Joseph Lozito for having the awareness to notice an unstable individual and act before others were hurt, and for having will power to face him down. Training or none, he did what martial artists talk about doing but often lose sight of when  discussing how they think it ought to be done.

Some take away points:

  • ‘Thanks to his many hours of watching mixed martial arts on television, Lozito says he “took him down” with a single leg sweep.”I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said.’ (emphasis mine)

 

  • “Gelman reached under his jacket, pulled out an 8-inch Wusthof chef’s knife and began slashing. “I was trying to get control of his wrist. I didn’t really feel anything...” (emphasis mine)
  • “He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where doctors closed a 4-inch gash on the back of his head, an 8-inch wound behind his right ear, two 3-inch slashes on his left arm, a cut under his eye and two deep cuts to his thumb.’


The fact that he decided on what to do based on watching MMA on tv is fascinating. The fact that he is 6-foot-2, 270 and responded proactively definitely worked to his advantage. While I do not think that this situation is telling us that watching MMA on TV is a good substitute for actual training, it is highly useful for us to consider whether or not training is more important than the will to act as a threat is perceived.

The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Violence
by Michael P. Ghiglieri
Published 1999 by Perseus Books, Reading Massachusetts
ISBN 073820076x

Michael Ghiglieri served in Vietnam and went on to study primatology. Both his combat experience, and his time spent observing chimpanzee troops in the wild inform this dark and deeply troubling work.

This is a wide ranging book and Ghiglieri does not shy away from criticizing people he believes harm our understanding of violence by portraying a world they wish existed, instead of the one that we in fact live in. He is impatient with what he describes as feminist accounts of rape (rape as power), liberal accounts of violence (blaming society rather than the criminal), gun control laws, and socialism. He supports the death penalty by arguing that lex talonis (eye for an eye retributive justice) is both justified and effective at reducing violence in societies. Ghiglieri describes the reproductive advantages of aggression, rape, murder, war and genocide. He seeks to demonstrate why the advantages realized by aggressive, violent males (in all species of the great apes) inevitably lead to magnification of these traits in populations. He is not prepared to let men get by with this sort of behavior however, he devotes the end of his book to a discussion of cooperation and retributive justice as means of inhibiting violence.

Whether or not one shares Ghiglieri’s social or political views, his theory of justice, or believes that his description of violence is accurate or adequately portrayed; this book demands more than comfortable cliches and responses based on naive Rousseauian views of human nature. I recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of violence.

“The Realities of Violence”
Richard Ryan
Published on the Budo Talk site.
I liked this short article and thought I would share it with our readers.

People who haven’t experienced sudden violence rarely understand the realities of it. Over the years I’ve attended numerous seminars and demonstrations given by martial artists and law enforcement instructors, and have found within a few moments, I can usually determine whether an instructor gets it or not, unfortunately, some don’t seem to have a clue about how fast a real assault can be, especially up close.

Real violence, the kind that happens outside the cage, is often explosive and brutal. In many situations, you only have a split second to react before you’re overwhelmed. If you’re not mentally and physically prepared, you stand little chance of surviving. People who grow up on the streets quickly learn that. They also learn how to use it to their advantage.

Click here for the rest.

I thought this was a pretty interesting blog post. (Hat-tip to Greg Restall.)

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

Published 1995, 1996 in Canada by Little Brown and Company

isbn 0316330000-Hard cover

isbn 0316330116-Paperback

There are plenty of reasons to read Grossman’s book “On Killing”; there are historical lessons to be gleaned, there are matters of strategy to be considered, there are lessons for society regarding the importance of honoring the service of members of its military, there are the lessons regarding drilling and conditioning, Grossman’s discussion of PTSD is very insightful, the list could go on and on. This is an incredibly rich book that not only offers the reader profound insight into the psychology and history of killing in combat, and of preparing men to kill in combat; it also examines and reveals the deep humanity at the heart of professional soldiers.

Sometimes I find the referencing of military science and literature by practitioners of the gendai budo a little off-putting; sort of “Vanilla Ice wanna be” like. I probably run the risk of putting myself in this category with this article.

Reading this book I was struck by three areas of potential relevance to the karate or martial arts practitioner:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Gift of Fear

by Gavin de Becker

ISBN 10: 0440508835

Do yourself a favor and read this book. I have probably read hundreds of self defense and martial arts related books over the years and only a few stand out for me. This is one of them (although it is not in fact either a MA or a SD book).

The information this book provides regarding assessing threats, responding to your intuitive fears (without resorting to ridiculous claims based on phony mysticism or telepathy), the utility of restraining orders, and so much more is extraordinarily useful. I will be recommending it to all my karate students.  I think it will go further towards keeping them safe than years and years worth of technical training, or reading stacks of martial arts related books.

Last year our group at Washington University hosted an extraordinary seminar by Ellis Amdur called “Grace Under Fire” that dealt with deescalation skills for people facing conflict. The book reminded me of the seminar a great deal, not so much in terms of the content but in the maturity with which the subject of violence was treated.

There have been periods in my life that have been extremely scary and violent. Some of the incidents during those periods still haunt me. The straight forward manor in which de Becker describes even the most horrific crimes  left me feeling less anxious (which seems counterintuitive). The author is not a scare monger,  he carefully distinguishes healthy fear which we should take heed of,  from unhelpful worry.

It is not uncommon for people involved in budo to claim that their art provides them an outlet or channel for their frustrations and hostility. Further they claim that this makes them less likely to actually participate in aggression or violence. The theory that combative arts (or other physically demanding activities) can provide a healthy outlet for frustration and aggression  is often called “catharsis theory” . Unfortunately there is very little support for this theory. The three articles below discuss the relationship between aggression and various forms of athleticism including combative sports.

Self-reported Hostile Aggression

in Contact Athletes, No Contact Athletes and Non-athletes

Patrice Lemieux, Stuart J. McKelvie and Dale Stout
Department of Psychology
Bishop’s University

ABSTRACT

To investigate the relationship between athletic participation and off-field hostile aggression, Buss and Perry’s (1992) Aggression Questionnaire (AQ) was completed by two groups of 86 university athletes in either contact or no contact sports and two control groups of 86 non-athletes who were matched to the athletes in physical size. In general, bigger participants scored higher on hostile aggression and reported more fighting than smaller participants, but athletes and non-athletes did not differ. These results contradict the learning and catharsis theories of aggression in sport, and undermine the media image of the belligerent off-field athlete.

Aggression and Catharsis

By Billy E. Pennal, Ph.D.

Although there is some evidence that aggressive behavior can be cathartic, much of this evidence involves fantasied aggression rather than overt aggression. When a physiological measure is used as an indication of aggressive drive, fairly consistent results obtain across studies. Blood pressure appears to reflect a catharsis effect whereas other physiological measures do not. Whether physiological arousal indicates aggressive drive is a problem open to argument.

Most studies supporting a catharsis effect have used dependent measures rather loosely. Measures of aggressive drive obtained from projective tests are open to considerable doubt, and this is the primary type of dependent measure used to measure an instinctual drive. Based on these kinds of measures, fantasied aggression does appear to decrease after some aggressive activity, particularly when that activity is socially sanctioned as in a sporting event.

Making Men of Them: Male Socialization for

Warfare and Combative Sports

Garry Chick
Leisure Studies Program, The Pennsylvania State University, 201 Mateer Building, University Park, PA 16802;

Combative Sport and Sham Combat. In a replication of the hypotheses proposed by Sipes (1973), we found that combative sports— those that involve actual or potential contact between opponents with the object of inflicting real or symbolic injury on opponents, gaining playing field territory, or are patently warlike— are related to frequency of warfare and
homicide in a cross-cultural sample (Chick, Loy, and Miracle 1997). We also noted the existence of a form of activity in some societies, which we termed “sham combat,” that was even more strongly related to warfare (though not to homicide) than individual or team combative sports. These were combat like activities that were not sportive in the sense that they lacked winners and losers and appeared, as often as not, to be training activities for males in the arts of war.

If we assume that the catharsis theory is fundamentally flawed then the following are things that I would be curious about:

1) I would want to know if the rehearsal of violence (training) in my group is  likely to actually encourage aggression in my students.

2) I would want to know if there are other social or psychological processes at work within a training community that mediate the tendency to greater  aggression.

3) I would want to know what I could do to enhance the efficacy of the  suppressive processes active within the group.

4) I would want to know if the tendency to become more aggressive could be suppressed (where appropriate) without compromising students real fighting ability.

I am hoping that we get some good comments on this as I feel it is a particularly important issue.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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