May 11th, 2009


thoughts on the Monkey Dance

Read a very interesting book lately: Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Methods, by Rory Miller. Miller is a serious martial artist who is in the unusual situation of getting into lots of real fights for his living: he works as a corrections guard, and so has to get physical on a fairly regular basis. The book is not so much a study on technique as a dissection of dominance games, which Miller calls the Monkey Dance, and the effects and nature of real-life violence. (He notes, for example, that sparring bears pretty much no resemblance to a real fight, and that martial arts training is often conducted very much in a mental box: students enacting a scenario do so within self-prescribed limits, because they're often focused not so much on enacting a realistic scenario as doing what they think the teacher wants them to.)

I read it on the Kindle, so I felt no compunctions about highlighting interesting quotes as I went. Here are some:

". . . people want to believe in magic and secrets and there are other people who will satisfy those beliefs for money and power."

"A man fighting another man for dominance will try to beat him, but a man who thinks that he is fighting a woman for dominance will be seeking to punish her. Punishment is much worse."

"There is a chilling video available of the murder of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller taken from his dashboard camera. Even as the threat loads a rifle, Deputy Dinkheller stays locked in a verbal loop, repeating, over and over, 'Stop that,' and 'Stop loading that rifle!' He continues in that loop until he is shot."

"EMTs are taught that one of the earliest signs of shock is agitation or nervousness. Far more often than I've seen agitation, I've noticed another symptom and it applies to shock, hypothermia, dehydration, hunger, sleep deprivation, and stress hormones: People tend to get really stupid ideas and then become extremely stubborn about them."

"Don't think of territory wholly as space. True, people identify with their territory and will fight for their homes, their 'turf,' or their 'hood.' But they are fighting for their identity, not the piece of ground. Violence is so psychologically damaging, not because of the physical damage but because of the attack on self-image, the attack on one's identity."

Miller's thoughts on people who are in prison are interesting, too, although he of course sees prisoners from the prison guard's perspective. Miller classifies prisoners into 1) people who made a mistake, 2) hustlers, and 3) predators; he believes that a major failing of the criminal justice system is that it assumes most people in prison are in category 1, which Miller opines is the rarest class of criminal, hustlers and predators being more common. He very much looks down on hustlers, but I think that category is rather broad, encompassing as it does everybody from con artists deliberately out to abuse the system to the kind of poor folks David Simon writes about, for whom everything's a hustle in the efforts to get by.

APED: "depths"

There are depths beyond which even the mermaids don’t go.
The pressures are great. But also, they know,
it’s down in the great trench the kraken resides,
never rising, nor stirring. He waits. He abides.
They swim above him, and watch. They swim slow,
and look hard for movement, and watch his stilled eyes,
which, were the lids lifted slowly, would visibly glow.
They project serene calm, but that’s merely a guise,
for they fear above all: the kraken will rise.