TIPS FOR CONFLICT DE-ESCALATION

  1.  Never offend or insult the other person. A quick trip to escalation. “Fucking idiot.” “This moron won’t leave me alone.” “Are you stupid?? It’s just a beer, man!” “You’re stupid chick looked at me funny.”
  2.  Never leave them zero option outside of physical conflict. When cornered, pride and ego take over, especially if friends, spouse/girlfriend, siblings, group are around to up the peer pressure factor or impress. If there’s a chance everyone can go home without a brawl, shut up and put your tail between your legs. If the only thing hurt was our pride at the end of the night, we all go home safe, nobody ends up in-hospital and no loved ones need worry.
  3.  Never challenge the other person. “You wanna go?!” “Is that an offer?” “Are you threatening me?!” “You think you can take me?!” “You want some of this?!” “And who the hell do you think you are?!” All are invitations to escalation. See number 2.

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4. Never touch the other person. While this may be circumstantial, if you’re not within their circle of trust, physical contact will cause an immediate physical response. A push off, a push, a removal. You’re invading their space bubble and territoriality increases exponentially during conflict.

5. Never give an order to the other person. “Calm down.” “Chill out.” “Relax.” “Take it easy.” “Settle the f*&^ down.” All are taken as an order from a stranger and, therefore, not taken well. You’re not their friend or confidant. They’re not getting paid and you’re not their boss.

6. Aggressive body language. Like we always say, if there’s an incongruence between body and words, believe body. If your body is showing instinctive signs of aggression, it will often be taken as such and a pre-emptive attack or sucker punch may be in the works. Learn to keep your body language under wraps as much as is possible. Self-control.

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7.Active listening. Sometimes if the other person is heard and knows they’re being heard, they’ll calm down. If they feel they’re not and you’re not understanding what the problem is, it’ll increase the odds of a physical lashing out. It may be as simple as you stealing their chair, taking their place in line or being rude on their night out with their significant other.

8. People often say to use humor. This can be an instigator as well if they think you’re making a mockery of their feelings in a serious situation, at least to them. Best to stay away from it.

9. Use submissive posturing. There are a number of pre-conflict postures that both give signs of calm and de-escalation but also give opportunity to launch a pre-emptive or simultaneous attack if needed in a pinch. (1. hands on head-frustration, 2. hands grabbing jacket-calm & listening, 3. hands on belt-confident yet prepared, 4. folded arms with low hand not intertwined-under the adrenalized depth perception line, 5. active hands – be like the French/Italians- and learn to strike out of movement, 6. rubbing chin, 7. pleading, 8. palms facing in the traditional “I don’t want no trouble” pose, 9. One or both rubbing neck-feigned exasperation, 10. Slow rubbing hands: self-comforting/in-thought)

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10. Talk slowly and calmly. As you’ll likely only have monosyllabic options under the likely effects of adrenaline, practice controlling the delivery mechanism. High-pitched, loud, frenetic and swearing will often cause the same reaction in the other person. Be the influencer.

Now all of these can also be used as a feint, bait or for deception if the situation calls for it and violence is a foregone conclusion as well. Something to keep in mind when planning strategies and tactics.

THE UNTALKED ABOUT

An area in martial arts/personal defense rarely discussed and often hidden that many don’t want to relive or address, but have experienced: “A couple of points here regarding third-party intervention problems (or self-defense, in general) and faulty communication with/expectation of students. I’ll throw my own ass on the fire from humbling personal mishandling earlier in life, admittedly making this somewhat subjective experience:
1. There is often a miscalculation on the extremely powerful effects of adrenaline/ASR/tachypsychia. (confusion over which avenue to go-fight/flight/fright, underestimation of the flight/fright responses, decision-making loops) For many with long-term training, coupled with misinformation as to these effects, it can be a crippling in-moment realization where, if having survived, shame and disillusion can ensue regarding one’s training or flaws in it, being in a very machismo-driven industry. (I have zero doubts that a ton of people likely will respond to the most recent subway stabbing incident, for example, with “How could this happen?!! There were 3 of them!!”)

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2. There is often an over-assessment of the situation and one’s own abilities to “solve” it. This goes back to the “When taught to train for perfection/beauty, even successful chaos management is deemed a failure”. Our perception of what successful survival is can be skewed if our training led us to believe it had to “look” or “be” a certain way, and this can lead to unrealistic expectations. An mid- or pre-conflict self-doubt can creep up, a faulty view of “it didn’t go this way in the dojo” (zero or minimal pressure-testing) or a shutdown of access to previously-trained abilities can rear its ugly head.
These 2, to me, are huge points that are most often neglected in much traditional training and do a huge disservice not informing students.

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3. Many times, there is a combination of both of the above simultaneously, which will simply inhibit the person from reacting at all, reacting erroneously (overreacting or underreacting), or reacting with an incongruent response to the situation (response doesn’t fit the situation)


No, not everyone will react like this and, no, not even experienced people will avoid this all of the time (each event is scenario-specific and unique unto itself) but it, from my experience, definitely points out innate and integral parts of training, or at the very least discussion, that are missing.

IMPROVISED WEAPON STUDY

Improvised weapons are often an add-on to most self-defense or martial arts curricula. They’re paid lip service to but rarely delved into outside of that “bonus” territory. As gun and knife laws continue to be put under the microscope and restricted with greater frequency in many societies, this is an area of study that should more-and-more become an integral part of one’s combatives training.

I’ve heard many complain that there are only so many ways to implement this into a class environment but, inevitably, it’s limited to the instructors’ creativitiy. In my estimation, as many skillsets that promote adaptability, behavioral flexibility and mental acuity the more prepared you’ll make that student for the realities of real violence. I break down weapon usage in terms of categories: bladed/cutting, penetrating, impact, flexible, projectile, shielding and combinations thereof. Some can utilize leverage and reinforce breaks/hyperextensions or chokes.

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Here are some that I advocate and utilized with my student base and security personnel:

  1. Thunderdome. Lay a number of training weapons on the periphery of the mats or floor – knives (folders, kerambits, Bowie – vary the type, length and weight), pocket sticks, flexible weapons, sticks, household weapons. Have 2 students start in the middle of that square – in the clinch, kneeling and on the ground, from various ground positions – and have them go at it. You’ll see pretty quickly the loyalty to submissions and position-based groundfighting flying out the window as they move into simple and gross-motor survival mode. Fighting for control of the weapons, learning how to limit the “damage”, understanding how the tool is held/what category of weapon it is/how one can best inflict damage with it.
  2. Rooms of  the house. Take students through various areas of a daily living or working area – bathrooms, bedrooms, office, front or back yard, kitchen. Have them see everyday items that can be used in a pinch in a self-defense scenario. Get them to manipulate the item for a time to have them understand how to best grip it, what category (or categories) it falls into, what anatomical targets it would best work on, and what part is the strongest for impact/penetration/cutting. Is it a finisher? Would it allow you to get to a more-effective tool? Could it be used in cqc (close quarters) range or would it be better served from a distance?
  3. Makeshift day. Lay a relatively large number of household items on the floor and have them do the same. Type/grip/best utilization and could some be used in unison with others? (eg. a broken lightbulb protecting your hand with a towel, a “rock-in-sock” (any hard weighted object wrapped in a discloth, modified slingshots, etc.) Fistloads, garrottes, knuckledusters, blackjacks/saps, improvised bucklers will likely all make themselves visible if enough items are brought out.
  4. Advanced people watching. Go to the mall or any highly-populized area and instead of just watching body language, behavior and profiling, look at carried items (whether on-body or carried) and think of how that person could best utilize that item. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, grocery stores, all have unique items that could present themselves.

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We, as humans, are and have always been toolusers but, ironically, the self-defense world is one of the only industries where this area has “devolved.” We believe that counter-knife is best served against empty-hand because of some moral code. (religious, moral, ethical, social restrictions – but our life should be taken with the same moral highground, we only have one, after all) Multiple attackers can be beaten with trained empty-hand systems. Utilizing weapons because it’s unfair or unjust. It’s become bass-ackwards. I see self-defense experts getting out of their car in a road rage incident to teach the other a lesson on who they’re screwing with, when the greatest weapon that we utilize on a daily basis is the very bloody car we’re in at the time. Going outside when a potential burglar is on the roof (territoriality) when our best tactical advantage is staying inside the very area we know better than anyone on the planet…our home – which is filled with improvised weapons, tools and household items.

Regarding even general weapons use, so many go and purchase the latest cool-looking, cutting-edge, carbon-fiber (and expensive) weapon, which is fine. (This does not have to be super cost-prohibitive). I always say that my LED flashlight is tactical not because it’s black but because I use it tactically if need be. Combative names for knife models, labelled tactical, blades that can’t be used for utilitarian purposes. Remember, if you can’t throw it away in a pinch because it brings some loyalty from you, there’s some personal investment or it’s too expensive…it shouldn’t be carried in your EDC kit. When I lived in Canada, I’d tell students that the two places I did most of my self-defence shopping were Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, not the local armory. Being innocuous is a huge advantage when being processed legally after having to defend oneself lethally, for whatever reason.

DIGITAL GRAPHOLOGY

Roughly 2-3 years ago, I took some intensive private classes in graphology. It was quite interesting how our writing can reflect certain personality traits, backgrounds, histories and the like. Now after a time, I started disbelieving some of the premises of assumption affiliated with assessment. While writing unequivocally gives a lot of information about a person, I simply didn’t think at the time that it told accurate tales of overall picture. I did, however, see a lot of possibilities to micro-analyze the smaller things: mood, specifically. Pressure a person’s under, whether annoyed or angry, agitated, penmanship reflecting being detail-oriented or generally lax. A case can be made for big picture traits like self-confidence, arrogance, shyness, introversion or extroversion being available.

However, as writing is generally not as pronounced  in the digital age as it once was and the majority being left to the scrapheap of signatures, receipts or bureaucratic documents or forms that already draw frustration and annoynace prior, it greatly limits the field’s modern importance or even validity. That being said, one area that popped into mind where it might have some validity would be in that exact digital landscape. Emojis/emoticons, memes, online shorthand, NetLingo, clumped phrases, tone, message accuracy and the like have profound significance in this age of social media communication. We use them unconsciously to make assessments of the people we allow into our lives. As I work most often in the self-defense world, I started wondering how this pertained to that field. Keyboard warriors, online conflicts and challenges, finding consensus with others in a predominantly testosterone-driven industry are the norm. Here it has value. Is there a way that these things can be compiled to glean an accurate picture of what someone is trying to say? To relate better without getting offended, to not get lost in the battle to be heard and have our point defended? Or to allow overall profiles to be made of the people we interact with everyday yet have never met in the real life?

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Inevitably, most we talk to  on the forums that we’re on daily are known strangers. We know very little about them and the only things we have to go on are previous experiences (comparison to people in our lives already, that have been in our lives previous or people we’ve come across positively or negatively – bridging the divide to try and label or categorize those in front of us now from this) coupled with the things they type and post (and our analysis, whether accurate or not, of this volunteered info – whether honest, restrained or falsified). I know I am constantly analyzing and making assessments of the people that contribute to the site and I think this is completely normal, as I expect fully most do the same of me.

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Through what methodology and how accurate can it be outside of placing some trust in a handful that they’re telling the truth and we can relate to them as similar like minds. Can it be deduced and how do we continually make these diagnoses of the people online we let into our lives. I’ve had some old-school martial arts and personal defense instructors e-mail me privately and tell me this digital communication thing is highly-perplexing and difficult to figure out. (Confrontation without repercussion, empty challenges, critique of our posts from invisible detractors, aggressive liberties that in real life likely wouldn’t happen) Food for thought as it again goes towards safety and personal protection in this rapidly-developing and relatively-new playing field. This is a new animal in the personal protection field that most of us are learning on-the-fly, and I’ve labelled it “digital graphology.” Add it to your repertoire.

“MIND ARNIS”, PART 2

I’d always wanted to do a companion piece to the first article I put out on this, as I realized I left a bomb at the end that likely got a lot of tradionalists up-in-arms. Without definition and explanation, maybe rightly so. I also had wanted to complete this two-part idea before I was on my way out of the FMA community but a little late. Maybe this is out of respect to my FMA friends and my own instructors. The “some myths” part I had left somewhat hanging but I’d like to take the time to delve further into this and maybe the traditionalists can relate with a little more clarity. Or, as is often the case, maybe not. That, unfortunately, I can’t help. Really, many of these are deserving their own full and independent analysis but let’s gloss over some of the finer points:

  1. Sinawali/2-stick drills build true ambidexterity. This has always been a point of contention in the FMA. Now while they do get both sides of the brain activated, this may less the fault of the drill but the manner of practicing it. As a predominantly “patty-cake” drill, one robs oneself of the ability to truly develop raw power in one’s “off” (or live if thinking in terms of single-weapon usage) hand. Slowing the drills down, breaking down the individual parts and discovering anatomical power generation is a far more effective delivery system. I always tell my students, “Teach the left to do what the right does effectively. What are the minutaie that makes one more powerful than the other. Feel it.” Another method is to break rhythm, step back and fire a full-power shot at the opponent, alternating hands randomly in the midst of the flow. At best, maybe it can 1. get one used to bilateral symmetry, a very real side-effect of ASR (adrenal stress response) which sometimes causes both arms  to do the same thing due to solely gross-motor accessibility and 2. cultivate pattern recognition in the practitioner that can be transferred to other pertinent areas of physical body movement.                                                           http://brainmadesimple.com/left-and-right-hemispheres.html
  2. V-stepping is the predominant and only method of footwork you’ll need. (You’ll usually know who’s pressure-tested/fought with minimal or no protection/done resistance training from this one as replacement stepping and the shuffle take front and center) While zoning is important, as one can see from any pro boxing match, it needs to be cultivated from actual mutual movement – meaning, your attacker needs to actually using intent. Angling and zoning in an actual dynamic environment. One can see more clearly what I mean from a boxer like Lomachenko, who uses an active form of v-stepping after initial exchange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gptWqO_ErI  We, however, most often practice it from one committed attack with minimal intent, no multi-dimensional follow-ups and no follow-up movement. Another thing makes itself known when sparring for the first time as well, the v-step as trained simply does not work. What replaces it is usually regular replacement-stepping (no crossing, feet constantly equidistance apart and balance under center – horizontal footwork) and the shuffle – forward or back, like the more compact version of the fencing lunge. (vertical footwork) A natural progression out of respect for distancing from and the actual weapon itself.
  3. A huge number of angles of attack need be trained for effectiveness. (Back in the fightbooks of medieval Germany/Italy, they used 7 angles, including the thrust but infinite variations and combinations can be made from this template) I saw a video with 40+ angles of attack the other day. Over-analysis, pure technique orgasm. Where on the body it lands or what target it hits: a forehand strike high, middle or low is the same strike. A backhand the same. A downward strike at a 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock or 11 o’clock angle is still a downward strike. A thrust is a thrust and travels the same routes if done with 1 or 2 hands or with a punyo. Whether slicing, thrusting (singles or multiples), tip-ripping, using flat-of-the-blade  or push cuts (with bigger, heavier blades), a “number 1” strike is a number 1 strike. As mentioned above, Fiore de Liberi, the Italian swordsman, used 7 angles – 6 cuts and 1 thrust. Basic and simple is better. 
  4. Defanging the snake is all that’s needed in weapons combat/defense. It hurts, have no doubt. But often later that night. Tomorrow will be a bitch, too, with even less movement. But adrenaline often takes care of the rest in the moment. We over-rely on this as a stopper. Let’s isolate the knife as an example, so many quote the “just cut the extensor or flexor tendons and you shut down complete arm function.” Well, for that to happen, some intangibles need to be at play: sharp knife, clean cut, clear angle, clothing-dependent (a Canadian winter, I can assure you this ain’t happening), target accuracy, size of opponent (the muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves can be far deeper on an overweight or large person than on a regular-sized one, to be clear)
  5. Biomechanical cutting is always the quickest and best way to shut down and stop the human body (adrenaline factors/depth of cut/sharpness of knife/cleanliness of cut/dynamic movement factor). See above as another example. Here’s the thing, if you’re in such dire straits that you need to deploy a blade to save your ass from the fire, are you truly going to be protecting his life first-and-foremost? Are you going to, under extreme duress, be adherent to hitting small, finite and specific targets that vary in depth from the surface from person-to-person? And what if you hit and they don’t have sufficient stopping power, what then? Guaranteed stoppages are the CNS (brain, spinal cord), heart, etc. Even arteries or veins aren’t a sure thing with adrenaline and its physiological effects. I know doctors who’ve seen first-hand victims of multiple stabs walk into the hospital white, with a small portion of blood left in their body but still talking coherently (albeit it in bad shape) so trusting the slash (or the slash alone) is flippant at best.
  6. “Trapping hands” or de cadena works the way it does in the club (though “trapping” is an element used regularly in boxing, grappling, clinchwork but not in the way most FMA people train it) It does not. Try it while sparring with a boxer. There’s no over-commitment, few over-extensions other than by mistake. However, trapping does work but within context. BJJ, sambo, wrestling and shoot proponents utilize traps all the time, often just not knowing it. My definition of a trap is this: “any temporary containment to facilitate a greater overall goal.” Is trapping permanent? No. Is it a momentary containment to gain a greater overall advantage, though. Try grappling against a resistant opponent and not use some sort of trap to gain submission or position advantage. It’s there,  in the FMA it just tends to be over-complicated, over-hyped and under-applied. Subtle, not grandiose.
  7. Knives magically appear in your hand whenever needed (deployment/weapon retention/concealment & carry skills need to be implemented into one’s training) I don’t know how many FMA instructors I’ve met who have minimal idea of how to open a modern tactical folder. We train from the duel, knives already in-hand. Deployed. I want to make this one clear, if you’re a “knife specialist” or call yourself a “knife fighter” (I don’t, I’ve been in knife encounters but never a knife fight) and don’t teach blade awareness, dropped blade protocol and retrieval, deployment, testcutting, weapon retention, different types of modern blades, concealment and carry, you are neglecting a huge part of modern knife self-defense, if that’s even an applicable term. (Another time, another topic)
  8. That if you train with weapons you’ll simply conquer any attacker as you’re a “weapons man” now (you’ll need more and nothing is a fast guarantee of success with the vast number of scenarios that can unfold) Here we see 2 examples and Youtube is littered with many many more: https://www.facebook.com/carlosandres.gomezdelgado.73/videos/313052115793918/                                       https://www.facebook.com/DeplorableMediaVideos/videos/1185973638178852/                                                                                         Though training makes the odds better,  there’s no guarantee that simply presenting, using or knowlege of using a weapon ensures success, let alone survival. If you’re measuring stick is simply that you have one and that makes you more dangerous, I’ve got some bad news for you. I used to have a student who said she walked around armed, she had pepper spray in her purse. I asked her where she had it in her purse. “Somewhere on the bottom.” Have you ever practiced getting it out of your purse as fast as possible, if ever needed? “No.” Do you know how to use the spray, have you actually shot it, you know where the deploy button is? “Not exactly.” Have you ever trial shot it before? “Um..no.” Then you have a decoration, my friend, not a weapon. And this isn’t even factoring doing all those things right but not counting on the other person’s adrenalized state – pain tolerance, pain threshold, your own survival stress state, will and innate justification to use it and the factors already listed above. (Innate justification can include spiritual/religious factors, appropriation of extreme use-of-force internally, societal/legal worry, moral/ethical resistance, among others)
  9. That gunting/nerve destructions/pressure point attacks shut down the moving adrenaline-filled human body (later that evening they can hurt like hell but hardly helps in the moment) I think we covered most of this above already.
  10. that complex flow drills build attributes or that some flow drills build attributes at all (drilling for the sake of drilling, becoming a drillmaster or not knowing the reason for your drilling makes it moot, period). I have talked to FMA “masters” before that have no idea WHAT attributes they’re cultivating but they can sure regurgitate the phrase in a hurry. “They build attributes.” Tell me which ones, what the purpose is of building them and why that’s important. Example, we’ll take the uber-popular hubud flow drill. Practitioners add one small element to the drill (a low kick being a most popular one) and call it “progressive hubud” or that they’re using it in a totally unique manner. Hubud is a construct drill, a base drill for beginners to get a feel for the unique sensisitivity and flow that inhibit the FMA. But it’s done in the same non-dynamic construct, the same dummying for technique, demo or not. Here are some ideas, if drilling is your thing and you’re not replacing it with resistance training, pressure-testing or any form of active resistance. Incorporating forward, linear or changing pressures. With breakoffs – a push to create distance for deployment or spatial reinforcement followed by the “pushed” giving a hard charge or tackle (you won’t be standing upright for long, one way or the other if you’ve been doing hubud like a piece of plywood, I can assure you) or wearing boxing gloves to start throwing upon  engagement. (If a knife drill and you couldn’t deploy, using empty-hand skills to get to deployment phase, clinch to learn to control attack, or use closed-folder tactics until full deployment (or half- or quarter-openings) can be facilitated. Have one of the 2 participants break off and throw a sucker punch with the other slowly getting over the backward flinch response and learning to do it forward-aggressive utilizing various methods of striking within the construct (ax hands, hammerfists, palms, etc. or even methods of delivery – wave, explosive, ballistic ,etc.) Hubud in buno/groundfighting range into joint hyperextension opportunities using an entirely different type of sensisitivity. All heavily pressure-based and with active resistance. Abecedario is another that stays in the “self-defense” phase, I used to use 3 levels of abecedario. 1. working the basics with no resistance. 2. increasing levels of feedback, opponent starts moving with varying types of pressure. 3. you have 3 seconds after first-contact to finish or opponent starts fighting back with full resistance.

Now these are within the framework of traditional FMA, I’d like to point out. This should be a bare minimum type of legitimate self-reflection on how you train. For those who aren’t interested in taking their training to extremes or push the envelope, these are some things to consider that we, in the FMA world, simply assume and accept to be truth. Question. Challenge the norms and the stereotypes. We simply do not live in an age where pressure-testing is always needed to legitimize a system due to the time we live in. And I’ve sometimes been critical of this, maybe overly, and maybe therein lies the problem with my own fun and passion. But I had also put a lot of effort into developing my own expression of the arts and ensuring, at least from my small corner of the globe, combat arts derived from function and with unique learning, movement and kinesthetic learning methodologies, don’t go the way of tae kwon do and ninjutsu – a caricature of their original inception.

*As a final comment here regarding the FMA community at large. I have respect for all sides, I do. I respect those that want to maintain the traditional, hereditary and cultural authenticity of their native arts. That is their prerogative and it is a relative heirloom in that regard. It it were part of my birthright and had historical significance to my country of birth, I can definitely see the passion and protectiveness one might have for it. I would. I can also understand the progressive side wanting to modernize things and further these arts into the 21st Century. (often a North American thing, admittedly) But I’d like to give a parting note for thought to both sides. If a Canadian invents something, puts it on the market, it’s always going to be a “Canadian” product, one that was originally made in Canada, will always have its origins there and Canadians can take pride in the fact it was one or more of their own who came up with the idea. That being said,  let me put this in the context of relatable terms regardless of nationality: if a German (company, individual or entity) purchases the product – invests money in doing so, worked hard for that money, put the effort into developing that product, promoting it globally, tweaked it to fit his demographic/culture – it will still be of Canadian origin. But it will be his product now. He bought it. Invested in it. Put the effort in for a price – be it financial, physical/labor or emotional. It’s his. Period. No Canadian has a right to tell him what he can and cannot do with that product. They can be proud that the German has taken it to different or at times even greater heights, knowing that that product is Canadian-made and the German will always give credit for it being so. But it’s his. Legally. Socially. Ethically. In every way. He bought it. Now that German could hypothetically be Filipino/Pinoy, another Canadian, Asian, of Middle-Eastern descent. Really, it doesn’t matter. We’ve struck globalization on products, maybe it’s time for the martial arts to catch up in some way. Think on that for a bit while you make the correlation.

A COMMENTARY ON THE XIAODONG / LEI “STYLE FIGHT” IN CHINA

I’d like to give a commentary on the recent  “no holds barred” fight in China between retired MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong and tai chi “master” Wei Lei that’s drawn so much online attention recently. (and continues to do so)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6RrxTBdJs4

I realize I’m a little late on the take with posting about this but I wanted to see what kind of input it drew around the web first. There’s talk of this being the deathknell of traditional Chinese martial arts, that it wasn’t fair to tai chi as Lei wasn’t a “true” tai chi master, that because Xiaodong was 13 years retired from MMA it sent an even clearer message on the state of functional Chinese combative arts, etc. etc. etc. There are always people complaining about the protocols of the bout and how it played into the other’s hands. Could this happen to any traditional art? Sure, this came as no surprise. Should one art or methodology be represented and spoken for by one individual who may or not be qualified to be the spokesperson of that said art or methodology? No. (It’s always the individual at the end of the day. What if it was a streetwise aggressive tai chi specialist who came up from a violent street background and an MMA fighter who was 5th-rate and never fought in the ring or with resistance? Meaningless.) Does it say something on the state of traditional Asian martial arts in general? Maybe. But I’d like to make a comment from a different angle.

Xu Xiaodong Interview

DISCLAIMER: Jiayoowushu does NOT condone Xu Xiaodong's actions or his conduct. HOWEVER, due to the spread of misinformation going on about the recent "Taiji vs. MMA" incident by Western news outlets that don't know Chinese, and thus don't know the precise, accurate details from the source, we are sharing this translated interview with Xu Xiaodong in the spirit of free speech and sharing of all opinions, even those critical so that we can further discussion of Wushu and Chinese martial arts. We at Jiayoowushu.com are dedicated first and foremost to the promotion through spreading awareness, and better understanding through discussion of all opinions of not only modern Wushu, but all of Chinese martial arts practice.Credit to Wong Yuen-Ming for translation on Facebook.Want to hear from another perspective on the Xu Xiaodong incident? Get it here on our newest article "Tai Ji vs MMA" by our newest contributor Frank Zhong: http://jiayoowushu.com/tai-ji-vs-mma/

Posted by Jiayo Wushu on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The interview with Xiaodong post-fight explaining his viewpoints and the escalation.

From a purely tactical point-of-view, this is what happens when you allow the other person to dictate context: the rules (start, time limit, referee, rounds), the time, the place, the date, the crowd, the exposure (filmed for Youtube and Facebook entertainment). You lose. Look at this from a bigger purely pragmatic view from a personal defense/conflict management position because we too often tend to look into the micro-aspects and become anal-retentive. This is also caused by ego: the Internet is, again, not a self-defense scenario and Lei took the bait – hook, line and sinker. )He actually did his share to provoke it after seeing the video that Wim posted. He let ego and pride get in the way of something that could have easily been brushed off (or ignored) but “defending his style’s honor” was at stake, whatever the hell that means. This is about two individuals at the end of the day, not a methodology over a methodology. Two willing individuals (who agreed willingly to settle this with aggression) who escalated a social media feud and now it’s been blown into something much greater than need be. One lost, and fairly, might I add. Deservedly? Maybe that as well with the poor choices made and the predicament he volunteered himself into.

*And, for those who think I’m biased in any way, I’m not, I don’t care one way or the other. I look at these things from a learning perspective, solely. But, if needed, I have instructor-level rankings in both tai chi/qi gong and in shootwrestling (a modern MMA-type hybrid combination of striking, grappling and clinching) after over 20 years in both.

ARE YOU IN A MARTIAL CULT? A CHECKLIST.

Well, let’s reverse-engineer this and list some things of concern pertaining to the martial arts world that may be equally-prevalent in cults or may hint at the fact your academy is bordering on cultish:

  1. You’re not allowed, either intimated or openly stressed, to train at any other clubs or any other systems or there’ll be repercussions: belts stripped, “excommunicated” from the club, rankings revoked, your training stops or is restricted.
  2. Other ideas, concepts, methods of performing techniques are met with stern disapproval as they’re not in-line with the set curriculum or methodology of the system/style/instructor/lineage. (Freedom of thought and experimentation should be a huge part of the martial journey – developing our own thought process of evaluation and filters is part of the self-evolution)
  3. You are required to bow and call the instructor by his title (and these titles are getting more and more ludicrous by the generation – Grand Master Supreme, anyone?), even when talking outside a training environment in social settings. (He/she can’t separate one identity from the other. I knew an aikido instructor who was so consumed by his training identity, his wife was actually scared of him outside the club and admitted so. His persona transferred to their relationship and the construct of power balance – it was an abusive relationship.)
  4. Your instructor crosses the boundaries of his/her expertise and starts becoming a mountaintop guro, business advisor, career counsellor, psychologist/therapist simply because of his/her position of stature within the club dynamic. (Outside of scope of instructor’s level of knowledge. While advice from personal experience is one thing, giving professional advice outside of our sphere of knowledge pertaining to serious life decisions affected by potentially outside-of-our-knowing intangibles is not)
  5. Great investments, either financial or time, are required early-on. (I was once part of a club that demanded one-year’s tuition and contract signed in advance sight unseen, extra for secret behind closed-door training that was above-and-beyond and recommended if you “really wanted to advance”, no watching classes prior to signing up, no family members inside the club or able to view classes)
  6. On that note, the practices of the club are “secretive” and not for the public eye. Lots of “closed-door” practices are promoted. (We live in perhaps the most oversaturated time of information in recorded history. There are simply no secrets any longer, all information is readily available to inevitably anyone. “Secret” is a marketing gimmick, nothing more.)
  7. You find you have trouble separating your personality from the training or “your style.” I’m a karateka, a judoka, an aikidoka, an arnisador, etc. (You are you, not your rank, and have a distinct identity apart from the club, your style, your system or your title)
  8. Your ranks carry-over into your day-to-day. You identify yourself so innately with your title that it’s even listed on social media in front of your name.
  9. The instructor starts making unwelcome advances either sexually, socially, religiously, politically or otherwise from a position of power towards the student body or members thereof. Individual members are isolated with private meetings, personal attention, unwanted extra-curricular communication, inappropriate physical contact. A subtle recommendation to their way of thinking.
  10. You start becoming more and more isolated from the outside people in your life and your social activities are progressively surrounded by solely people from the club or academy-based activities. (A lead-in to groupthink)
  11. Rankings and titles dictate specific order of control to the point liberties are taken, either physically, verbally or psychological through isolation, derision or punishment.
  12. Upon leaving the club, you’re called out and badmouthed to the internal community as being a “traitor” or “disloyal”
  13. The instructor continually screams, yells and issues orders that he/she clearly is not following themselves. (elitism and clear superiority)
  14. The student is expressly made to believe that any open questioning on functionality (technique, for instance) or lack of understanding of direction is disrespectful, out-of-line or worse, blasphemous or mutinous.
  15. Peer pressure to do things one is unprepared for or uncomfortable with on a psychological, moral, ethical or emotional level, outside of scope of justified training for learning progression.
  16. The student feels his/her well-being is at risk from constant physically-unnecessary and potentially-injurious training. (Bullying, club chain-of-command, one-way impact abuse where the instructor inflicts but never receives)
  17. You find that situations you would otherwise have handled in a calm and controlled manner previously, are now handled with an eye toward utilizing violence. Greater aggression, hostility, volatility and reactiveness are present after training has started.
  18. The club is considered clearly-superior to all others, that nothing else is needed by the student and everything they’re searching for can be provided at this one place.
  19. More and more ridiculous claims and practices are implemented by the instructor. Chi knockouts, telepathy, mind control, special abilities, no-touch control, etc. all come to mind in this vein.
  20. Demonstrations that look they’re influenced by hypnotism, suggestion, magic trick or influence to create a mythic or indestructible reputation of the instructor and higher-ranked students.

Now, admittedly, some of these may well be acceptable of their own volition or independently. When all of these or a vast majority are omnipresent, there is an innate problem internally within the club and it starts to look very parallel to the cult stereotype. Very subtle in nature so one has to have a clear vision of what’s transpiring and ask internal questions for a normalcy baseline, which is often extremely difficult to do when absolute power and subtle manipulation is present, all in the name of tradition, fraternity, ego and order are driving forces.