This is a continuation of the interview with Ann Marie Heilman. Part 1 of the interview can be found here. In this segment, Heilman Sensei discusses what it was like meeting Odo Seikichi of Okinawa Kenpo and how it changed the direction of her martial arts career. She also contemplates the meaning of being a Hanshi in karate and her growing responsibilities as a role model for women in the martial arts. Please enjoy.
MA: Could you discuss how you met Odo Seikichi Sensei of Okinawa Kenpo? What were your early impressions of him that made you decide to train under him full time?
AMH: The first time I met him was during a banquet we attended with Trias Sensei over in Okinawa. When they announced us and our style as “Okinawa Kenpo” a very small Okinawan man jumped up and yelled “yay! Okinawa Kenpo!” with his arms in the air. That of course was Odo Sensei.
That’s the thing – he was always happy and joyful. Even when he was quite ill, he was always a happy funny man and it was easy to grow to love him. He was also an excellent teacher. We brought him over to the United States the following year and continued to train with him as much as we could until his passing.
We established a routine of going to Okinawa or bringing Odo Sensei to the United States every year. We would be able to spend weeks and sometimes months with him in focused training. It was a great relationship and we were blessed to have him here in our home so frequently.
MA: What did you find similar/different studying with Odo Sensei vs some of your previous instructors?
AMH: It was different in that he was very laid back. I’m not sure if my previous experiences were flavored with American military or Japanese martial art style, which is very very different in the dojo and very serious. While we were training and doing kata with Odo Sensei, although the training was rigorous and focused he always taught with a smile and laughter. That was different and good for me.
Odo Sensei’s training was exacting and he had a huge emphasis on kata. That worked well for us because we could receive the kata and bunkai from Odo Sensei, but then also receive high level application, theory, fighting, etc. from Trias Sensei.
I remember early on in our studies with Odo there was no particular structure for the material. He would teach you what you were interested in or what he thought you should know. I remember attending a meeting in 1984 with a number of other senior students of his and establishing an actual hierarchy of material that students would have to learn. Once we had that scaffolding set up, everyone could then test standardized material. It was in this way that I tested up to 7th Dan directly under Odo Sensei.
MA: Odo Sensei was known for teaching in the old Okinawan manner of suiting material to the student, tweaking it as needed to make it more functional for the individual. Were there any particular ways in which Odo Sensei molded your learning to make it work better for you personally?
AMH: I think the most unique thing about my relationship with Odo Sensei was how frequently he used me as his bunkai partner. Bunkai became a very live experience for me. Before Odo Sensei I trained with a lot of tall, strong men. It was really great to learn from Odo Sensei who was much closer to me in size. That being said, Odo Sensei was very muscular and had huge hands. He was a powerful individual. I remember when we put our hands together his fingers could fold over my fingers.
If I watched him very carefully I could learn how a smaller individual could move, especially with the weapons.
MA: Your husband Bruce Heilman is also a senior in Okinawa Kenpo. This would inevitably lead people to wonder if you were perhaps riding his coattails or getting free rank simply by association. Am I right in assuming this sort of thing came up, and how did you go about handling it?
AMH: Testing and receiving rank directly from Odo Sensei and NOT my husband was critical. In fact Bruce was of the same mind and made sure that it was not him who tested or promoted me. Over the years I noticed a few women who did receive high rank simply because of who they were married to. My testing was always public and I was always sure to keep my training as transparent as possible. This is another reason I did tournaments for a while. I wanted people to see what I could do and prove that I was not just a figurine following my husband.
MA: While studying under Odo Sensei you and Mr. Heilman were also busy building the IKKF (International Karate Kobudo Federation), which Odo Sensei approved and sat on the board for. Could you discuss the challenges of starting something of that nature?
AMH: The organization came about because we wanted to establish a personal identity while being a branch of Odo Sensei’s Shudokan. Bruce Heilman had a talent for organization and was experienced in setting up this kind of structure. He knew about getting accountants, and lawyers, etc etc. We had met a number of excellent martial artists over the years that we wanted to associate with, and we also wanted to help other styles learn things like Okinawan weapons that their style may not have had.
The growth of the federation allowed us to share our art, especially the kobudo, with many people both in the USA and internationally. I never would have thought it possible when I was growing up.
One of the challenges of the IKKF is the desire to maintain high standards throughout the entire organization. Sometimes our style is not ideal for individuals that want to join us, or perhaps our standards are not reasonable for a commercial school. We try to be fair while maintaining what we think is right.
MA: While you’ve spent many years developing your martial arts you’ve also studied and acquired degrees in special needs education. How have you found those two worlds fitting and interacting with each other?
AMH: They fit together like a glove! I’m a people watcher to begin with, but the study of psychology is extremely applicable, especially when it comes to teaching self-defense. For example, how do you take a woman who has been victimized and traumatized and make a fighter out of her? She cannot become capable of defending herself without addressing the psychological factors.
We have had many special needs students throughout the years. I recall one individual in a wheel chair who we developed material for. We’ve had individuals with cerebral palsy, kids with autism, etc. At times I’ve had specialty classes, and other times have had individuals in a regular class with proper assistance.
I believe even limited individuals can benefit from martial arts training as long as the teacher knows how to work with the limitations.
MA: Recently you received the rare honor of being promoted to 9th Dan, Hanshi. I’m sure this was something impactful for you. Could you talk a bit about your feelings and reflections of the promotion?
AMH: I remember my husband brought up the possibility two years ago but I was staunchly opposed to it. I wanted no parts of it and that kind of responsibility. As far as this time around, I feel right about it because I’ve had two years to reflect on the possibility and the things that I’ve done, and the amount of study I’ve done and still want to do. I knew that if I received it this year it would be coming in a legitimate way from teachers outside of the IKKF who are respected in their own right.
(Note: Heilman Sensei’s promotion was made by Hanshi’s Larry Isaac, 10th Dan; C. Bruce Heilman, 10th Dan; and Jody Paul, 9th Dan; with the approval and authorization from Okinawa from Hanshi’s Shihan Toma (ratified before his passing), 10th Dan; Shigemitsu Tamae, 9th Dan; and Kyoshi Satoshi Yamauchi, 9th Dan, representing both the Seidokan and Motoburyu lineages. Additionally Heilman Sensei received recognition from the IKKF (her home federation) and the United States Association of Martial Artists (an organization connected to the original USKA under Master Robert Trias). These ratifications were important as they connected Heilman Sensei to her roots in training (Odo Seikichi and Robert Trias), as well as continuing the historical connection between Okinawa Kenpo, Seidokan, and Motobu Udundi.)
To be honest, I was so much more involved and excited with Mr. Hayes getting his promotion that I was not thinking too much about my own. It felt good that I was more concerned with him than myself – I felt it was a moment of personal growth.
As for the promotion night itself – I do not remember a moment of it! I don’t remember standing in front of everyone…things were a dull roar.
MA: As you mentioned, the title of Hanshi bears a certain amount of weight and responsibility. How do you see yourself using it for the betterment of the IKKF and the martial arts in general?
AMH: It certainly has imposed a sense of obligation on me…in a good way. I believe I need to take a step up in the amount of teaching and seminar instruction that I am doing. I need to be more of a “Bobbi Snyder” for the young women coming up through now, as she was for me. I need to represent the martial arts in a more visible fashion.
In the coming years I’ll be taking a more active role in traveling, especially overseas. I would also like to increase the amount of writing I do. I need to find a way to balance all that with my current job of working with special needs children.
MA: When you think about your overall legacy on the arts, what do you hope your lasting impact will be?
AMH: I’d like to be remembered as a good and fair karate woman, teacher, and judge. If I can do that, and combine it with the IKKF learning materials we have already created, I would be happy. We have set up the scaffold so that people will have what we created for a long time to come.
I’ve never considered myself (nor was I in truth) a natural talent at martial arts. Everything I learned was through repetition over and over and over. I would watch others get it much sooner than I could. I’ve had multiple injuries as well that were very debilitating. In total my learning process has been slow, with many ups and downs.
I hope that other “non-naturals” out there can see my struggles and continue to push through too. I would say to them, surround yourself with a good support system and never let “quit” enter your equation. As I was once told in grade school: “Aim for the moon…even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars”.
MA: Thank you very much Mrs. Heilman for your time and thoughts!
I’m very pleased to present this interview with Ann Marie Heilman, senior practitioner of Okinawa Kenpo Karate and Kobudo. Heilman Sensei has spent over 45 years training and leading the way for women in the martial arts.
In addition to being a skilled martial artist, Heilman Sensei is a formally educated psychology and special needs professional. She has been an important figure in teaching martial arts to at-risk children, abused women, and other individuals in volatile circumstances. She plays an integral leadership role in the International Karate Kobudo Federation and the long operating Heilman Karate Academy.
It was my pleasure to converse with Heilman Sensei about her past training experiences, views on women in the martial arts, and her responsibilities as a senior practitioner. Please enjoy the interview!
MA: Thank you again Heilman Sensei for agreeing to do an interview here. Let’s start at the beginning – when was the first time you set foot in a dojo or training environment?
AMH: I was a freshman at Albright College and Hidy Ochiai was a senior at the time. He was offering Judo Self Defense classes at the local Y. I was really interested in that, and had some personal safety concerns because one of my family members was being released from the state hospital (mental and behavioral problems). I signed up for it, hopped on a bus, and went down to the Y once a week for self defense training. This began in 1966.
The content of the course focused on street awareness and defense techniques (where to hit, how to hit, how to throw, etc). The basis of the class was on Judo methods, which I found challenging as a smaller woman.
It was a very good experience because Ochiai Sensei had endless patience with us. He always encouraged me to continue, even when the program was coming to an end. I was never sure if his encouragement came because he saw a spark of passion in me for the martial arts or if he thought I was so bad I needed lots more extra help, hahaha.
MA: Where did your training go from there?
AMH: As I mentioned Ochiai Sensei was a senior, so after his time was up at the university I had to seek training elsewhere. One day when I was in my dorm room a friend of mine named Rick Ulrich walked in and invited to take me to a local dojo operated by George Dillman.
I had no real knowledge of what karate was, but Rick and a few other friends were involved. I remember my first class there I had to go through something called a kata named “taikyoku one”. I remember thinking – this is kindof…odd. And I had a lot of problems with it. Coming from an inner city school I had almost no experience with gym classes or sports. To do something in a coordinated and physically organized fashion like that was hard.
MA: Were you tempted to quit at first due to the difficulty and unusual nature of the exercise?
AMH: I don’t think I knew at the time how hard it was for me and how bad I must have been. I didn’t know that I was struggling.
MA: Could you talk a bit about the curriculum at the Dillman School?
AMH: At the very beginning I didn’t realize that what we were doing was different from what other people were doing. However, over time I realized that our style of practice was connected to Isshin Ryu Karatedo. In time the name changed to Okinawa Kempo due to influence from Daniel K. Pai, however the content of the class didn’t change. Our training consisted of Isshin Ryu forms and sparring as well as some self defense.
Things were very tournament oriented at that time. I remember going to a national tournament in Indianapolis in 1969, which coincidentally is the first time I met one of the major figures in United States martial arts – Robert Trias.
MA: What was the climate of martial arts training like at that time?
AMH: Truthfully it was a very macho kind of environment. Practitioners were mostly men and the martial arts were still heavily connected to the military (considering the individuals who were bringing karate back from the East). There were so few women that we were a sort of novelty.
All the women I knew in training at that time were white belts. It wasn’t until I attended a tournament that I actually met a black belt woman named Bobbi Snyder. She was competing in the same ring as us because there was only one ring for women (white through black belt and regardless of age). Bobbi took first place in our kata division, and my roommate Linda took second.
Competitor Bobbi Snyder executing a self defense routine and her preferred performance kata, Chinto:
Linda and I were convinced this woman (Bobbi) was going to be standoffish and /or aggressive, but when we all met in the locker room after the competition she immediately joined us in conversation saying how glad she was to meet us. She really encouraged and supported us in our training and said how she was looking forward to watching us gain rank and skill.
She was a student of Glen Premru at the time, a very well known karateka in his own right located in Pittsburgh.
MA: You met your eventual husband, C. Bruce Heilman, at the Dillman School. Could you talk about that meeting?
AMH: I had been training at that dojo for about a year before Bruce came to town. He was from the Pittsburgh area but was serving an internship near Reading. He was already a Shodan under Hank Talbot when he arrived, which was in a style of Jujitsu developed by Dewey Deavers that featured a healthy mixture of tripping, throwing, and striking methods. The Deavers system was known as a hard knocks style that integrated ideas from other methods, including karate. As such, when Bruce arrived in the Dillman school he was honored as a black belt. Of course, he had to learn the kata before being recertified in our style.
When we first started we were side-by-side students. Of course, he had an unusual natural gift for these sort of things and it didn’t take him long to become one of the instructors there. He was a savant for kata and a very good fighter.
We were married in June of 1971, only about 9 months after meeting.
MA: Could you discuss how you eventually began to train under Robert Trias Sensei?
AMH: We reached out to Mr. Trias who we had known from tournaments for a number of years and expressed our interest in learning from him. He directed us to connect with his regional director, who as it turns out, was Hidy Ochiai. Since Bruce was a Nidan at that time Ochiai Sensei decided to test him, and subsequently made Bruce fight all the black belts in his dojo for hours. Bruce was loving it, and afterward we all went out for dinner and had a great time. Ochiai Sensei was instrumental in helping us with our East Coast training and keeping us connected to Trias Sensei.
Bruce and I established our own school in 1972 in the Reading area. For a few years we were focused on building the school and teaching while still learning from the USKA (Trias Sensei’s organization) members in the area. It was in the late 70s and early 80s that we actually studied with Trias Sensei directly.
It was also at this time that we participated in many seminars and got to meet some of the great American practitioners of the time.
MA: Could you talk about what training was like with Trias Sensei? How was it different/similar to what you did before?
AMH: It was really excellent, he was as good as his reputation suggested. Trias Sensei provided us with fantastic training and helped us understand what made karate work (or not work). He had keen insight into functionality, fighting, and kata interpretation. He was one of the best of his time.
One thing he pointed out to us fairly early was that we were not doing Okinawa Kenpo, even though that is what we were self-labeled through the Dillman School. He suggested that we travel with him to Okinawa in order to meet the headmaster of the style , Odo Seikichi. Of course we were a bit taken aback by this revelation, but Trias Sensei’s honesty and knowledge were part of his value as a teacher. He was rather strict in this regard; he told us that if we wanted to keep calling ourselves Okinawa Kenpo that it was our duty to meet the head of the style and learn his ways.
It took a few years for us to gather the funds and make arrangements, but in 1983 we eventually went with Trias to Okinawa, which turned out to be a huge turning point in our martial arts careers.
MA: You mentioned earlier that you, as a woman, were something of a novelty in the dojo. Could you discuss if that feeling persisted through the 70s and early 80s in the Trias Organization and martial arts world in general?
AMH: Trias Sensei himself was always very giving and open and honest. He would tell you what he thought you needed to do, but not in a hurtful way. Training within that organization was something that I found to be fairly inviting with a productive mindset during training.
MA: What were some of the problems you noticed in general (perhaps not specifically things that happened to you) for women of that era?
AMH: I think one of the biggest hurdles was the mindset of martial arts being “A good ‘ol boys club”. It was a time when women in general were struggling to gain a foothold in the business world. It was very difficult in the martial arts to get respect…you had to prove yourself. The men didn’t want to judge us, and only men judged.
One of the true stories of Bobbi Snyder was that she was very rankled by this idea of women being unable to judge. One day she walked up to a corner judge, tapped him on the shoulder, and informed him that he had an emergency phone call on the line that he needed to attend to. When he left, she promptly took the vacant judging spot. Naturally there was no phone call to be found.
She ended up judging and refused to give the flags back.
Another issue was actually finding space to compete. We only ever had one ring, and often it was pushed to the side away from the regular competition near the bleachers or even under the bleachers. By the time I was nearing black belt we really had to take a firm stand to be respected. I was innately a shy person so this was difficult for me.
It should be said that there were some really good men at this time as well, supportive and fair. I remember Ochiai Sensei was an instructor with a mindset of equality from the first time I met him, and even when I visited his dojo in later years he always had female students.
Another very important matter is that gay men and women of the time had very little protection in society, so they needed to learn how to protect themselves badly. Therefore, since there was a contingent of lesbian women in the martial arts, a stereotype developed amongst men that all women martial artists were lesbian. This developed into hurtful and derogative behavior toward women of both orientations, straight and gay alike.
It’s my pleasure to present this interview with Rory Miller. Mr. Miller is a rare and valuable resource for martial artists, law enforcement officers, and civilians alike looking to improve their understanding of violence.
Rory Miller has seventeen years of experience working in maximum security detentions, booking, and mental health facilities. He has been able to take that experience into the “classroom” where he has conducted many training sessions for professionals and civilians. Mr. Miller has developed a unique voice in the self defense community and is widely regarded for his ability to transmit not just technical knowledge but also insight into the emotional and psychological nature of violent acts.
Mr. Miller recently sat down for a video Q&A that explores some of his background and ideas regarding violence in the modern world. He discusses his early days studying judo and jujutsu as well as learning about physiology and taking his experience into the world of law enforcement (warning: some explicit language):
I was able to ask Mr. Miller some questions myself, aimed more toward his experience with traditional martial arts and what he’s learned that could help other TMA practitioners. Please enjoy!
MA: In the martial arts world there is sometimes a feeling of needing to “prove” one’s fighting skills and style by engaging in real combat, even sometimes seeking it out. This brings up an interesting conundrum – is seeking out real trouble necessary, and can it be reconciled with the ethical tenants in most arts of using violence only as a last resort?
RM: If you want to prove your fighting skills, or if you want to test yourself, there is boxing, judo, MMA, etc. These are fantastic. I think martial sports, particularly MMA, has evolved to semi-safely measure strength, speed, endurance, adaptability, intelligence, and skill. If that is what you are asking, no– there’s no need to seek trouble.
That said, until you get in trouble, you’ll never really grasp that it is a different problem than fighting skill.
It’s hard to explain. Everything physical you get from a martial sport will help you in a shitty situation. The only real problems are mental– the assumption that unexpected violence is the same as a match; the mindset that you must ‘win’ a ‘contest.’ The idea that it is a fight. The reliance on time to prepare or the expectations of what will or won’t happen…It’s not that one is right or wrong or that one is more intense than the other. My first use of force at the sheriff’s office was a skinny addict gang-banger. After training with college-level athletes for most of a decade, he felt like he was made of cheese.But, because you are taking it farther, under higher adrenaline, with both more chaos and fewer ‘knowns’ there are some things you will learn in real trouble that you simply can’t learn anywhere else. Some of it will validate your training, some will discredit it and a lot will explain some things that are useless for sparring work great in an ambush.
MA: You have experience in classical jujutsu as well as law enforcement. What lessons from jujutsu have you found most applicable to your law enforcement? On the flipside, what have you taken from law enforcement that helped you in jujutsu?
RM: I had the luck of starting with extraordinary trainers. My first judo coaches, Wolfgang Dill and Mike Moore were conditioning monsters who made it clear this was physics, not mysticism. So I spent most of my early career with college athletes, going hard, trying for perfect body mechanics– and they insisted it wasn’t real judo unless I could fight out of my weight class. That, especially expected and required to compete at least one and usually two weight classes up, was crucial. Jujutsu under Dave Sumner was another level. It wasn’t just a mixed martial art in the sense that it had take-downs, strikes, grappling, locking, gouging… it was also completely integrated. Strikes were part of the takedowns. One motion could simultaenously lock, strike, and throw. The o-soto-gari outside leg sweep that I learned in judo was modified by simple adjusting the angle of two limbs into a technique that took exactly the same amount of time, had the same throw, but also collapsed the trachea and blew out the knee.
So what I got from the classical JJ, was fantastic body mechanics, extremely efficient motion, an ability to deal with fast complicated attacks and a familiarity with damn near everything a bad guy can do.
What I got from working Corrections was perspective. Judo was a sport and jujutsu pre-dates the concept of force law so needing to justify each force incident made me understand the ethics. The fact that so many things happened so fast taught me to trust and understand how my subconscious works under stress. One physically obvious perspective shift– the hardest part of a judo match is getting into position for the hip and shoulder throws. It’s a chess match of timing and ruthless speed. I once had someone tell me that those throws were worthless in a real encounter because “you never turn your back on an enemy” and it made sense at the time. Thing is, though, that real enemies jump on your back. Not only was something that was deemed ‘worthless’ actually effective, the part that was hardest in training was given to you in real life.
MA: Your life experiences have helped you in understanding real life violence. In what ways have you helped traditional martial artists break bad assumptions or habits they have developed during their training which may actually get them hurt?
RM: No one understands real violence. Anything I’ve done is only a piece. You can be the most experienced doorman in the world but you will know nothing about how an infantry soldier feels or what a rape victim has experienced. You can be the world’s foremost expert on domestic violence and know almost nothing about predatory criminals or gang culture. It’s a big animal. I’m just a former jail guard. I know some things, like criminals, pretty well. Job circumstances required most incidents to be handled without weapons, which is closer to what most martial artists train. But outside of that, there are tons of things I don’t know. Currently a few of us are trying to coordinate a group of people with expertise in different parts of this subject. Can’t share details right now but it will be first hand information available nowhere else.
Martial artists break their own assumptions. I do help with some things. People tell you, “There are no rules in a streetfight,” but at the same time if you get a call from school saying your eight-year-old stabbed a kid who pushed him on the playground, you know well that he broke one of the streetfighting ‘rules.’ The model in “Facing Violence” and “Logic of Violence” help explain that there are different types of violence with different rules. What is completely appropriate for a home invasion is ridiculously overkill for taking the keys away from a drunk friend. Once the martial artists see the context, actually look at the problem, they can make informed decision about where their system fits. How to apply it and when not to. If I’ve done anything for the martial arts community it is simply describing the problem, creating a lexicon so we are talking about the same thing and introducing a few drills. Making it useful will always be on the students, on the people who adapt the knowledge.
MA: One piece of advice you provide is not to keep training generic, but to actually think about the kind of threat profile a person may face. For individuals who have never attempted such a mental exercise, could you give some basic advice for how to implement that into training?
RM: Yeah, but you probably won’t like it. The “Logic of Violence” DVD, by the way, is an attempt to video the class that covers this.
There are only a handful of types of interpersonal violence. I’m going to leave domestic violence out of this, because it’s a big subject and easy to confuse. Basically, social violence is about group dynamics and centers around membership, territory, status and rules. If a stranger comes to your house to tell you you are a crappy father, you’ll get angry. And, because of the group identity, often your victim will get angry, defend you and attack the police. Insiders versus outsiders. Territory and status range from, “What are you lookin’ at, asshole?” to “You lookin’ at my girl?” Rules enforcement violence ranges from a spanking to an execution, from a look when someone is rude to “I’m gonna teach you a lesson, boy.” All of these are predictable and avoidable.
Predatory violence breaks down two ways– resource predators need money, usually for drugs and they want it as quickly and safely as possible. A process predator wants the joy of causing pain and making someone beg.
So with the exception of relations you stay in (one of the reasons I avoid DV here) the social violences are avoidable. I’ll go so far as to say that if you want to use your mad martial arts skillz against a social level of attack (which most closely mirrors the dueling or sparring paradigm) you actually have to be an ass to trigger it.
For predatory violence, you are targeted when you have a resource the bad guy wants (money, say, or sex or even the kind of face that a bully thinks he can make cry) and he thinks he can get away with it.
Basically, and this is the part most martial artists don’t want to hear – the average guy who is really into martial arts will be or become fit and alert. They become the kind of person who will never be targeted for the things they train. Not unless they are asses or actively seek it. And even then, it won’t be the perfect fantasy. A drunk college kid in a Monkey Dance, maybe.
The people who most need the training are the ones who won’t seek it. That’s both cause and effect. Women are targeted for more predatory crimes, and more horrible ones, than men. Geriatrics are more vulnerable to bad guys than young athletes. Your victim profile if you are a young, fit martial athlete? Damn near nothing, unless you are stupid, arrogant and/or socially inept. Stupid people can and will get in trouble despite any amount or quality of training.
MA: The phrase “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six” is common and popular in martial arts circles these days. The main idea is that worrying about legalities and levels of force will result in a cluttered mind and ultimately a lost fight. Could you discuss your take on this?
RM: If it were a binary choice, I’d have no problem with the phrase. But it is not a binary choice. Would you rather stab yourself in the leg with a knife or hit yourself in the hand with a hammer? How about neither To keep it simple, and I will try not to rant – we all know that there are potential legal consequences to a force decision. Every reasonably intelligent adult knows that. Since they already know, they will worry. So the question becomes which will make you freeze less: a worry where you are ignorant or a worry where you aren’t? Knowing and training with respect to SD law is just common sense. Anyone who says it clutters the mind or limits your options or… is probably entirely ignorant of what the law actually is.
My experience is that almost everyone who says that phrase is ignorant of self-defense law, doesn’t teach it, and needs a quick soundbite to make ignorance sound like a reasonable choice.
That said, something to think about: I don’t teach SD Law as a decision making class. With a few (predictable) exceptions, all reasonably good citizens will make good choices. But these will be so fast and subconscious that it is kind of silly to pretend that there is a flow chart. You teach the class first to find glitches. If anyone has problems with the law (and if you present what the law actually says, that is very rare) you can find a point where they will freeze and you can work on that. The focus on the class is on articulation. How to explain a decision that may have been super-fast and subconscious. To put it simply, criminals practice lying to the police and civilians don’t practice telling the truth. Practice matters and a skilled criminal can convince people you were the bad guy. You need to be able to convince people that you were the good guy. And you need to know when to talk and with whom.
MA: Over the years you have developed a skill for making small joint locking work on even big, non-compliant opponents. What do you think is key when utilizing these kinds of techniques?
RM: The biggest key is ‘gifts’. I never put locks on people. They hand me the lock and I finish it. My judo coaches used to say that there is no way for a human to stand or move without being vulnerable to a throw. You just had to recognize the vulnerability and apply the right throw with ruthless speed. It’s the same with locks. A bent elbow hands you the shoulder lock. A straightening arm hands you the elbow. In a scuffle people put their open fingers in the palm of your hand all the time. Should have a video about this coming out from YMAA later this year.
MA: You’ve always trained your body hard and have experienced years of physical contact incidences. While most martial artists won’t experience your level of rigor, are there any pieces of advice you could give (now looking back) on how to avoid injury?
RM: Not really. Everyone that trains hard eventually winds up as a little bundle of injuries. Play hard, pay hard. The people that like playing at that level generally don’t listen when the old guys say, “You’re gonna regret that in a few years.” So, I would say all the same things and the people who need to hear it won’t listen. Memory loss from concussions, blurry eye from a gouge, arthritis in the broken fingers, hands go numb when I sleep from all the shoulder dislocations, even light training in a massive knee brace… may seem like a heavy price at the end of my forties. But I’m in my forties, so, yay. If you’re training for fun, injuries aren’t fun. If you’re training for health, joint problems down the road are counter-productive. If you’re training for a deeper understanding, micro-concussions are a problem.
One piece of advice: train your body to its limits. As far as you can go without injury. Train like a strong young athlete. But train your mind and techniques like you are old, decrepit and sneaky.
MA: You’ve built out an excellent catalogue of resources to help citizens and martial artists understand the law and violence better. Individuals just getting acquainted with your work may not know where to start. Could you provide a brief description of soem of your books/dvds and who they might benefit most?
|“Violence: A Writer’s Guide” is an introduction to the world of violence. To the parts that people don’t understand. The parts that books and movies get wrong. Not just the mechanics, but how people who live in a violent world think and feel about what they do and what they see done. $13.49 (subject to change)|
|“Meditations on Violence” is a core dump. It is a big psychic vomit. At the end of an interesting year for the first time, things weren’t processing. Martial arts training had always been a mental sanctuary but it wasn’t working. So I started writing just to get things out of my head. Kris Wilder sent it to a publisher. If the readers want a pretty raw, emotional contrast between the world and the training hall, this is a good place to start. Book – $14.03 (subject to change)|
|“Facing Violence” is an expansion of a single section (two paragraphs?) of “Meditations on Violence.” Violence is not just the fight. It has a purpose and a lead up and a context and consequences. “Facing” delineates those and gives some advice on what to do about it. I think it is the most practical book I’ve written. DVD – $24.95 (subject to change)|
|“Force Decisions” is probably the most important book I’ve written and the one no one will read. We live in a very safe liberal democracy, where officers are authority figures in a culture where it is acceptable to question authority. A place where we try to solve or limit the problems of crime and violence by making a profession that specializes in facing those problems. And the line of misunderstanding between the officers and the citizens has gotten dark. I had no problem with citizens questioning my force decisions. I was using force on their behalf. But I did have an issue if the objections were emotional and suggested no better options. So, “Force Decisions” is a book for citizens on how and why officers use force. And few will read it, because they have already made an emotional decision about whether cops are good or evil and will never dare get some facts that might change their beliefs. Book – $13.21 (subject to change)|
|“Scaling Force” was Lawrence Kane’s concept. Most martial arts (or SD derived from martial arts) actually use a very limited range of options. Karate punches and kicks don’t really have good options for calming down Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner. Pure shooters are only equipped for deadly force encounters. Locking specialists may be surprised if the threat is not feeling pain… and so on. So we wanted an introduction to the options everyone should have skill in, from presence and verbal up to deadly force. The chapters on presence and verbal, by the way, are pretty unique. Book – $12.86 (subject to change)|
MA: “The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming’s all that Dreamers do” – Is this a quote you developed or that you found somewhere else? Why did you choose this as the motto of your blog?
RM: It’s the only thing I’ve ever written that I think qualifies as poetry. The basic truth is that no one becomes amazing by sitting on his ass, watching videos, reading books and listening to podcasts. You want to become extraordinary, you have to go do stuff. That simple. If all you do is dream and you never work, you contribute nothing to the world.
MA: My audience consists of mostly traditional martial artists. Are there any parting words you’d like to leave them with to help nudge them onto a path of real life protection?
RM: Explore. Be curious. Play. Don’t be surprised if some of the old stuff you don’t use in sparring turns out to be critical in ambushes. The old stuff arose in very violent times and most of it was good. Things fall apart in the misunderstandings and the training methods And take a look at how you train. If your art is truly designed to be efficient, shouldn’t your teaching methods be equally efficient? If it takes years to get good at something effective, that is almost always an indication it is being taught inefficiently.