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David Hines [userpic]

thoughts on the Monkey Dance

May 11th, 2009 (08:50 am)

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.


Posted by: HJ (hjcallipygian)
Posted at: May 11th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)

Greg Jackson -- the head trainer for a lot of the world's top MMA fighters, including Georges St Pierre and Rashad Evans -- has talked about the difference between martial arts and fighting a few times that I've read. One of the most interesting things I've read from him is when he was giving a group of Marines a talk about techniques, and he went over the thought processes he had to determine what he'd teach them and what he thought would be effective vs ineffective for them. He said that something like 75% or more of what he teaches to his professional fighters would be completely inapplicable to the soldiers.

Bruce Lee also thought about that stuff a lot. I'm sure you've heard that famous quote of his where a wrestler put him in some hold and asked what he would do to get out of that, and Lee responded, "I'd bite you, of course."

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: May 13th, 2009 03:56 am (UTC)

One interesting point Miller makes is that cops, who don't want their foes to be able to move, pin them face-down, while competitive fighters pin them face-up, where they're more able to use their arms to struggle. Never thought about that as being a competitive fair-play thing, but it really seems to be.

Posted by: HJ (hjcallipygian)
Posted at: May 13th, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)

I don't think that competitive fighters *try* to pin them face-up on the mat -- back control is a very dominant position and usually a fighter is willing to eat a few punches in order to avoid it. Face-down on the mat almost always equals a loss, and even having someone behind you when you're on top of them is a very difficult position to be in.

Cops usually have two distinct advantages: one, they're better-trained than most of the people they go against, and two, they are more accustomed to high-pressure type situations and so they don't get taken over by their instincts nearly as much. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this once, how bodyguards are trained to become accustomed to being attacked and having to react quickly, over and over again, so that when it really happens, that moment of shock is cut down and they react immediately, or as close to that as possible. (Gladwell's theory was to apply that type of training to NFL quarterbacks to calm them in the pocket.)

Posted by: trinfaneb (trinfaneb)
Posted at: May 11th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)

Interesting stuff. Based on every episode of "Cops" I've ever seen, the "stupid ideas" stubbornly held observation seems to be right on the nose.

Before I was born my father got a job as a prison guard at the Reidsville State Pen (which has the reputation of being the toughest prison in Georgia). He quit after one day.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: trinfaneb (trinfaneb)
Posted at: May 12th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)

By predator do you mean a human criminal, an actual animal or the monster from the movies? :)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: May 13th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)

Yeah, the blitz attack is really interesting. Briefly, a prisoner is brushing his teeth when another prisoner wades into him out of nowhere and beats him horribly. Very quick, very fast, lots of blows, no warning whatsoever.

The attacker takes care to hold his victim's head so that it doesn't hit the wall. Because if it did, he could get more serious charges, like attempted murder, rather than just assault. He literally thinks about legal issues while pummeling a helpless person.

Posted by: pokeyburro (pokeyburro)
Posted at: May 11th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)

Great review; it was compelling enough that I added it to my wish list.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: May 13th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)

It's definitely interesting stuff.

Posted by: A good grammarian can outwit any word. (cesario)
Posted at: May 11th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
[random] Hobbes and brutal reality.

"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.

That's a useful, if frightening, distinction, but it rings very true. Have you read The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker? It reminded me of something he says there, that men are afraid women will laugh at them, and women are afraid men will kill them. For laughing at them, apparently. Dudes need serious therapy.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: May 13th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)

I have not read De Becker, but Miller has, and references him several times.

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: June 1st, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)

I just finished this book. Thanks. It was very, very interesting.

I'm reading The Gift of Fear right now.

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