dijous, 17 juliol de 2014


I don't conform worth a damn. I can try, and fake it, but it does require continuous effort. This might make me more aware (scratch: it definitely does) of certain group dynamics.

Now, groups are groups, and they all have their requirements. Some of them are obvious, some stated, some not (seriously, get Marc's Violence, Blunders and fractured Jaws, probably the best work of his early period). No one actually tells you you have to defend your family, or the limits (do I have to defend my twice-removed cousin by my sister-in-law's side if he's being an asshole towards a SWAT in gear?), you just do.

My problem comes when the unwritten rules become, basically, teenage group monkey dances. You'll see Rory talk about groups going into group monkey dances as extreme educational beatdowns. Now... he does talk about how higher levels of violence are reflected in lower ones.

Have you ever witnessed a verbal educational beatdown? What about a verbal Group Monkey Dance? Now, part of this is normal. Rebuking a child is, after all, an educational beat down, verbalized.

Problem is... we might be getting a bit too used to these things, especially online. When we gang on someone, even if it's half joking, online, we're greasing the wheels of the same mechanism we might end up using face to face, but without the fear for consequences. And, if we use it in small enough circles, we use it with an extraordinay expectation of success, because the object of our attention doesn't have another equivalent group to go to. It's a mix of the classic small-town circle and Web anonymity.

I submit it's a dangerous idea. It's a matter of time before you try what you do on Facebook, WhastApp, your favourite forum or blog in real life. If the person conforms to your expectations (because he's trained in the same tools as you are, or whatever), then all's nice and well. If not... you're in for a world of hurt.

And it happens to the weirdest people. I just saw it happen to a quality control-public relations guy. He did something in a small network that he would chastise anyone in public relations doing. Did it without a second thought. It's going to have consequences, even though it was a "virtual" setting. They'll be mild, because it was a simple mistake, but still... Same thing in real life? At best, a lost sale and customer. Where did I say something similar, of late?

Take care.

dilluns, 14 juliol de 2014

Self defense from self

I follow several writer's blogs. Probably since time immemorial, writers could use better communication skills. But shile Shakespeare might have wished for a better rep at the local pub, blogs are... worldwide.

One of those blogs currently has a post with over 200 answers in less than 12 hours. The post itself is over 1800 words. What for? A denunciation of a political tendency in the publishing world, plus three links: two recaps of the same idea, in the same blog, some time ago, and a link to betsellers of the opposing political tendency.

I'm using Dean's stats, modified for a 2000 word story. Should be more, considering how much the author joins the comment section, but it'll do and it's a round number. That person has spent between 110$ and 920$ (publication in Asimov) in that rant. A rant that validates her own worldview, that gives her an ammount of reputation. Which is all well and good, but... is it worth 900$? The blog is, basically: "They strike again because of an article. Nice piece. A and me wrote about this kind of attack before." Almost 2000 words.

Now... write as you wish. Beware of creeks and floods. I can't recall the exact term Marc used, but he did say something about behaviour reinforcing itself, particularly against attack. That person just used between 100 and 1000 bucks (plus future revenue) to... entrench herself.

When and how do you fall into the same behaviour? Because you do, be sure of that.

Take care.

diumenge, 13 juliol de 2014

Upright and uptight

I'm starting to chew an idea. Chinese MA have a style called "Six Harmonies". One of the ways I've heard it explained is that it tries to harmonize joints between higher and lower extremities. As a method for abstracting your own movement, it could be worse...

However, I've been moving my own body for a while. The more I practice MA, the more I tend to think that the "secret" to MA is unlearning weird mechanics. All that "you'll never have as much bodyweight transfer and coordination as when you crash into a bedside table at 3am". But we've gotten used to walk without weights: no backpacks, no toddlers, no water jars, no recently killed boar on our shoulders. These days, not even much in the way of terrain obstacles or irregularities. So, we walk weird, upright and uptight.

So, a good deal of instruction could be "walk weighted, learn to shed weight". However...

I haven't been moving other people's bodies for nearly as long, certainly not near as much or often. So, I'm coming to focus on ways of simplifying the ideas behind that, Because the simpler you learn, the less you bleed. And I'm getting to the point where my branch of Kajukenbo coul be explained as a different kind of "6 harmonies". Or Four, depending how you count them: both knees, both elbows, the head-soulders triangle, and hip.

Outside competition or dueling, you'll be able to reach elbows (and very likely knees), and you'll need to get past those to reach the body. Also, they're easier to grab than wrists (and, for the most part, the following applies to fingers), and more tightly linked to the centre of your opponent. If you try for a wrist lock you have three problems: wrists are fast; also, most wrist locks were designed for a fast break and current sensibilities try to find ways around that (which makes it slower). They're nimble. Wrists move a lot, and there's that extra joint between them and the shoulder, and a lot of length. You need extra effort to grab them, set them in position and hurt them. And they're so popular (people grab each other from the wrist since they're children; parents do; and on and on...) it's rather common to have a reflex of avoidance. They're also well defended: your other arm, stance and movement, circular elbows...

However... elbows are not as fast (and made worse because too often they're not considered a target). They're close enough. Not as flexible (also made worse by that perception gap earlier)... which means that, coupled with their position, they move your target's body.

So, you have two targets, about as close: one is fast, the other isn't. One has a lot of give, the other doesn't. Why would you go for the first one? If you reach for the elbow, you can afford grosser movements, use your body more instinctively, and it doesn't break your own movement patterns as much.

Same goes for knees, with the added plus that they're holding your opponent's body, so they're less mobile, and that weight adds an extra stress that can give very unpleasant surprises.

And, lastly, hip and upper triangle. Almost as related as elbows and knees. There's a trope, move the head and the body will follow, that's just a corollary of what I pointed about the give in wrists and the lesser give in elbows. And the null give othe head. And, oh wonder, the hip follows the same pattern.

Now, both hips and head are better defended. But. People tend to defend sort of instinctively against groin attacks, specially males, and punches to the head; but not as much against hip shoves or shoulder twists. Use it, play, feint. A shuto to the neck can very well turn into a shoulder grab ('n pull).

Just thinking aloud... Take care.

dimecres, 9 juliol de 2014

Amazon, Hachette and self defense

Imagine a Western movie. John Wayne by a fire, by night. He's got some issues with the other camper and tries to raise them. He is ignored. Same happens the night after that. He pays for water rights when they go through some native lands and keeps on. But the other guy keeps ignoring him. And so on. Until they reach a town and his mate starts calling him names in public. He tries to lower the tension and makes proposals, but they are ignored or, sometimes, answered with long delays.

Then the other guy shouts at him around the fire and approaches him, hands flailing around. And John Wayne grabs a log, uses it to light a cigar... and keeps it between them.

Not in real life?

Imagine a meeting between two professionals... say, the manager for an architecture studio and a lawyer. The former is the later's provider. Used to be a big name, with a big porfolio. He's still a big name, but there are upstarts everywhere, good ones (and, yes, bad ones, too). And he gets into his client's face, maybe nervous about that. These days, the lawyer can reach other architects and smallish studios on his own, but, well the studio still has some big names.

Still... how long util the lawyer drops him?

Read this and think about it in SD terms. Conflict resolution. Escalatto. Using wrong tactics. What you use against a panhandler is not the way to approach a local heavy weight in his own turf.

It's interesting.

dilluns, 7 juliol de 2014


Found myself talking with the PR of a small printer, calling because he "didn't understand" a review. I had them print half a dozen copies last week for something we needed at work. Then I got asked for my overall experience for an online rating and gave them a 5 instead of their usual 9 or 10.


There were three points in my complaint. Point one (a basic security one) triggered an automatic "it's your fault" response and an authority attempt and a change of subject when I pointed why it wasn't.

Point two reached half way before being interrupted and told "You're superintollerant, dude." Yes, dude. In a professional call. I refused to be subject to that any further, and I hung up. Really don't do that often, not even to telemarketers.

Point three was never discussed, of course.

Now, several levels...

Level One: Violence Levels

Rory's levels (from Violence, a Writer's Guide): Nice-Manipulative-Assertive-Aggressive-Assaultive-Murderous.

Now, a lot of people confuse being nice as not being able to be anything else. In the above example, I called back because the phone they called to wasn't quite up to it (long story; point is, I was making an effort on my time and dime).

Then he started his "I don't understand". Manipulative, any? Then tried to shift blame (yes, indeed, manipulative). And when it din't work tried aggressive (both cutting into my sentences and with that "superintollerant, dude" sentence).

This being a phone coversation, I could hang up. In real life...

Level Two: Escalation

That was an escalatto. In real life, these things lead to blows. And this means that if I wasn't allowed to disengage in a real life meeting, face to face, he would have been hurt. Because he didn't seem aware he could stop that. Much less that he should.

Level Three: Consequences

I've already spoken about the possible (likely?) consequences of a face-to-face meeting with that attitude. But what about what really happened?

He lost a customer. In a recession. Might lose two more. Plus the chances of having several more as customers, ever. Which means his livehood is at stake. Not as clearly as a blade coming to your ribs, but as momentously. Like, frankly, the security issue I mentioned early on.

Just saying. Take care.

divendres, 4 juliol de 2014

Just half way

A bit of background: I like science fiction and I'm sort of following new trends in publishing. New venues, relationships with legacy pubslishers...

Now, I was reading a writer's blog. His post and several other previous ones imply that his current publisher is opening him a new one, and yet "we are working together again, quite happily". In the same post where he acknowledges that corporations are, basically, not to be trusted. Worked with, but not trusted, even when you trust their employees.

Several points:

  • comfort zone

    Most people avoid change. Said writer had a strong disagreement before with his publisher. Instead of walking away, he stopped publishing for three years. Yes, he did some minor work on the side. Still... He's getting screwed this summer, by his own posts, and yet... there are 1001 reasons for that. It's called rationalization.

    It's easier to keep your comfort zone that walk into somewhere better.

  • Halves

    Several sides for that. When I stab you, it's clear that I'm attacking you. When I'm fifty paces off, I'm not. When I'm at three paces? With or without a blade? What about a staff? A walking stick?

    We tend to like clear limits, but daily life doesn't have many of those, and it erodes our definitions. Slowly. Like a boiling frog. This is mostly good, because it does allow us to change withot major trauma, little by little. That's how you got from infant to adult. But there are dangers. Like many other default psicological reactions, it can be exploited.

    Now, there's an interesting subset for that. Whatever your personal choices in life (politics, religion, even entertainment), there are people you like, people "like you", and people you don't. Specifically, people you abhor. And you'll make a list of the reasons you don't like them. And one day you'll find someone you like, somewhat, and realize he fulfills some of those same reasons.

    What do you do? Why? Being able to open up is the path to learning, to growth. But you can't change only because you sort of like someone (for starters, he might be a scammer). And you don't know if he's a fool, a scammer or on to something.

    No. You don't. Not at first. And if you think you do, you've turned that certainty into an uncritical religion.

    In both cases, you have to learn to adapt your principles to the situation. Yes, even SD principles. He's near. Why? It's crowded. Oh.. OK... probably. It's not crowded... not good... looking at me, tense... bad... but he's opening his own door... oh... maybe it's me who's too near.

  • lack of rules in SD

    And the relation of that to MA or SD is?

    Two of them come to my mind. One is that in MA, like everywhere else, you choose your options, your groups. Beware of the limits. Even if you're doing MA only for MA sake, check with the outside world to see if you're into a scam, or a cult or... And if you are there for other reasons that your speficif MA (because you like MA in general, for SD, for...), more the reason.

    Having friends or acquaintances in other "parts" of the social continuum can be hard, uncomfortable. Even dangerous early one, in certain places. But it's a managed danger you step on your own, not a sudden danger that catches you unaware. It's traiing. Social, but training nonetheless.

Take care.

dilluns, 16 juny de 2014

Gods among unbelievers

I was at a seminar, some weeks ago. Lovely one, felt myself comfortable in the execution of techniques, learning...

Still, two buts:

The first one is one that we probably all fall from time to time, even professional teachers. I might be a tad more sensitive to it because I've been experiencing the MA for more than a quarter of a century. That particular art for more than 20 years. I don't have the diplomas, it wasn't continuous... I do have a certain experience, distance... whatever. There are things I've seen that some new black belts don't even consider. It's a slight advantage, not in technique, but in understanding.

Also, I do hold a degree in iaido. And one of the things iaido has very clear is the required distance to judge, much less teach. Japanese high school instructors are at 6th dan or above. We do have lower level instructors in Europe, but it's not ideal. Even so, degrees can't be awarded by less than 2-deg above tribunals, or five-deg above instructors. So you become careful when telling someone he's doing X wrong. Because he might be doing that in order to emphasize something specific, per his instructors orders.

We don't have any of that in other arts. People often forget that the way they were told to do somethings is not necessarily the way their partner was told to do it. And both are right. Because the specific technique is not important, principles are. And then someone will get speechlessly bent out of shape because you used a palm strike instead of a punch.

Guys: suggest, comment, correct things if they are clearly wrong. Be careful about ways and basic manners. Because your partner owes you nothing, beyond those very same basic manners.

The second one is something I've also seen outside MA, but... There was a guest instructor from central Europe, and he did some basic kali. Now, on the next "general" class, another guy saw the main instructor correcting some ideas on that guest instructor and his partner. The local guy started ranting on the lines of "that will show him!". Show him what? He's better than you are in both styles, that technique is something completely different. And there's a reason the local guy invited the other one, don't you think? Learn from him, dammit, and don't monkey dance against a mirror. Don't turn your local instructor into a god, a household deity at that, and make him compete with his damn guest; the guy's also his disciple, for Heaven's sake! By discarding him, you're discarding what your local instructor wanted you to learn. Because he does work sticks... but different, and not as a focus (not even the third or fourth one, more like a training aid). And when you've been in the Arts for a while you learn that you start very close to zero when you train in something that's not quite your own. Which might have been the point, because the local performance in kali was awful.

From that last sentence, two things: practice your art's basics. If your local instructor is good at kali (even if it's not his focus) and you enshrine him, learn kali at least. And, also, learn to have good waypoints that tell you if you're learning a technique or not. Numer of moves, for instance. Orientation. If the technique was 2 high strikes and a low and you're doing three low strikes and a single high, there's something wrong, no matter how good it makes you feel. Choose your checkpoints wisely. It does help when you're confused. Which you should be, if you're learning.

All that under an instructor who tries to get people to think and experiment. Under more rigid ones... I shudder.

Take care.