War Story

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War Story

Postby RA Miller » Wed Jan 31, 2001 9:06 am

"Sarge, I got a guy screaming and kicking the door in disciplinary. He made some threats. I'm gonna write him up. You mind stepping in and seeing if you can talk him down?"

"All right. Who is it?"

"Smith. Mental history, assaultive."


The inmates in Disciplinary were locked down. I crossed the day room to Smith's cell. The window was covered from the inside. That's bad. Probable ambush, maybe suicide. Threats, assaultive history, covered window. Candidate for a CERT call.

The options: CERT, on-duty staff response, trying to establish rapport through a door, trying to bully with orders... or something else.

I knocked on the door.

"Is that all the harder you can kick?" Smith yelled. From his voice I judged that he was sitting down on the opposite side of the room, 10 feet from the door. I quickly keyed the door open, listening for sound of movement. As soon as the door opened, I pulled the paper off the window and looked in. The floor was soaped, a mattress was rolled up in front of the door to trip up a rush entry. Smith was waiting on his bunk. He had a towel rolled tightly, wrapped with strips from another towel. It was dripping wet. He was holding the ends in one hand so that the heavy middle swung back and forth. Not a good thing to get thumped with.

"Mr. Smith, what is this all about?" I tried for the tone of voice that I use with my children, the tone you use when you know they are being bad for attention and you want them to see how silly they look.

"This is my standard procedure. When the goon squad comes in they slip and I kick their asses!"

Deep sigh. "Toss me the towel, Mr. Smith."

"No! How do I know the goon squads not waiting right outside the door?"

"Because you'd hear them and you'd see the reflection in the window. Toss me the towel."


"I want to see how badly you damaged it and if I have to write you up for destruction of property." Patient, slow, like writing him up would be a great burden.

"No! Why don't you go out there and I'll go out there and really give it to you!"

"Mr. Smith, please toss me the towel."


"I said 'please'". There is something about that logic that works on children and also some adults. As if 'please' really is a magic word but you have to point out that you've invoked it.

"Oh, all right." He stood up, not so quickly that I would have had to respond, but the presence of the weapon, the soapy floor and no back-up nearby would have been a definite "Ominous, imminent threat of harm" and I would have been justified and was fully prepped to explode into a level 5 response. (That's use-of-force jargon. Sorry) He _handed_ me the towel and sat back down. The towel was heavy. I tried it out later on some walls and countertops. Nasty.

"Well, Mr. Smith, this is obviously a weapon. I'm gonna have to write you up."

"Couldn't we just flush it and forget this whole thing?" Bargaining, just like a child being sent to bed early.

"No, Mr. Smith. You already told me you planned to use it on the goon squad, that's why the floor was soaped, remember?"

"But I was just cleaning my floor. C'mon, Sarge."

"Okay, Mr. Smith. I'll tell you what. I have to write you up for the weapon and the threat, you didn't leave me any choice. But, when I come back with your paperwork, if the floor is all clean, I'll believe you about cleaning your room and not write you up for the mess." As if there was a rule against having a messy Disciplinary Cell!

"Cool. I'll do it. Thanks, Sarge."

There was more conversation, but that about covers the meat of the incident.

Comments? Questions? Other stories?

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War Story

Postby Rick Wilson » Mon Feb 05, 2001 7:27 am


Thank you very much for sharing. Please continue to do so.

Rick Wilson

War Story

Postby Todd » Thu Feb 08, 2001 1:30 am

Excellent story,

Verbal Self Defense needs to be taken in the context of the non-verbal.

Verbal Self Defense

Can we now defend a front punch with a verbal assault? No one is arguing that.

Uechi-Ryu is unusual in its lack of verbal utterances upon execution of techniques. We hiss in sanchin and then quiet our breathing at most other times.

When Monica Seles grunts while hitting the ball, is she merely trying to increase the energy of her stroke or is she also trying to intimidate her opponent? Will she win future tournaments merely grunting the ball over the net? NO! Her verbal tactics are one of the techniques that she uses to win the games of tennis.

Karate, like tennis, has many techniques.

Karate instructors should instruct utilizing a multitude of technique. Karate can be taught narrowly as primarily kicks and punches, or as many, following the ultimate fighting championships, have become more rounded in their teaching to include techniques not so traditionally included in Karate. Ground defense, grappling, etc.

Some folks may never show up at the vsd forum, but there is a lot to be said for the VSD.

VSD is a technique. Like many techniques, it works best not alone, but in combination of several techniques. A block immediately followed by a punch may work better than a punch alone.

Karate alone is ok, but without grappling skills, you are going to be at some disadvantage to some aggresssors.

In the case of the War Story, there are a number of reasons that allowed the scenario to play out as well as it did. First, "Sarge" understands that there is a very near physical threat and is both ready and prepared to react to defend against the potential physical assault. "Sarge" is neither afraid to fight, nor itching to fight.

The nonverbal Self Defense

"Sarge" utilizes both verbal and non-verbal techniques:

1. Position-by giving Smith the distance between him and the doorway (about 10 feet), Smith is not immediately threatened, so he does not need to respond yet.

2.Tone of voice-Sarge chooses a tone of voice to match the given situation (if Smith had begun moving towrd Sarge in an aggressive manner, Sarge's Tone would have changed, becoming more protective

3.Posture-Not mentioned, but very crucial. What hand, wrist, arm, body, etc. gestures did Sarge make while talking to Smith? Unlikely that Sarge would have been pounding his fists together (this would have been a non-verbal sign aggression in contrasty to his soothing tone).

Verbal Aikido

Part of the reason that vsd is not well accepted inthese parts is that what is called for is often Verbal Aikido, not Verbal Karate.

Here's the analogy. From a legalistic standpoint, if you were an adult and physically attacked by a juvenile (this happened to me in South Boston), would you be better off defending yourself with grappling or striking and blocking techniques (assuming that fleeing is an option at some point). If you punch the juvenile in the face, you may be liable for civil or criminal charges. Grappling, in this case may be more effective, allowing you potentially to subdue the juvenile attacker (my attacker weighed a good 250 to 300lbs while I only weigh 155).

Lesson, and there are many.

1) deflecting attacks often works better than attempting to fully stop the attack.

In War Story, "Sarge" deflects Smith's verbal attacks in a manner controlling, yet not agressively so. Responding to Smith's statement that the towel is for 'When the goon squad comes in they slip and I kick their asses!', Sarge pauses, sighing, 'Give me the towel Mr. Smith'.

Sarge's verbal tactics match his physical tactics. Sarge is ready to respond physically, but not encouraging it.

In some ways, what is gets down to is the distinction between assertive and aggressive. Be careful, very few people seem to know the distinction.

Verbal and non-verbal self defense work best when they are geared toward asserting one' rights, rather than acting in manners which tend to be percieved as aggressive.

2. How I happened across the attacking juvenile is an interesting story in vsd. After waiting about 45 minutes for the polie to respond to the congregation of juveniles outside my south Boston apartment, I took it upon myself to see what was going on.

I approached the group of 7 or so all too forwardly for my own good and told the group to let the kid alone (the one being pummeled at the moment). The 250 to 300 pounder responed that it was his cousin and that it was alright. I know everyone can see the litany of mistakes....

It did not take long before my face was the target of that huge youngsters fist. Karate took over a little too late. One small shiner just below my eye, I blocked one or two shots and was out of his range and in flight thereafter.

I figure I messed up the whole vsd thing. Where there less aggressive, more assertive ways of approaching that situation (postures, verbal tone, and choice of words)which could have accomodated what I wanted the outcome to be? Would the postures and words work if I could not back it up with Karate? Maybe. Did the Karate help me? Yes and no. The 250 to 300 pound juvenile did not hold me in a head lock for 45 minutes. I blocked maybe 2 out of 3 and I think that moving around quickly yet solidly helped minimize the effectiveness of the one punch that got in, not to mention allowing me to get away. Could have been worse.

Need I say it, I think my pride was hurt the most. I have tried to learn from that situation though. I initiated and would have liked to have taken control of the situation in vsd manner that was more akin to Aikido rather than Karate.

I am very curious about the vsd. It seems to have many levels just as self defense can have many levels with the levels relating to the severity of the attack.

There was a book that I read at least ten years ago called (I think) Verbal Self Defense which was more inclined toward day to day vsd rather than specifically in life and death self defense situations. I do not know the author, etc. At the time of reading it it made a lot of sense to me and I tried to incorporate it into my training (less successsfully on some occassions than others).

Last-I swear-note

Humor works and I want to hear about this from others......Sarge uses humor. IN this case ironic humor. He tells Smith he wants to see the towel to see if it has been damaged and if so, he will write em up. Sarge has been called to respond to the screaming, the kicking, and the threats, not the state of the objects in the disciplanry room. Sarge wants to control Smith, but realizes that he can only do that if Smith is willing to go along (unless he calls in the goon squad). Sarge may be able to defend himself from Smith, but controlling Smith, against his will, would be far more difficult a task, perhaps not possible by Sarge alone.

I am a 1st dan in Uechi and a white belt in a few different styles.
I wish you all well, I really enjoy this vsd topic


War Story

Postby LenTesta » Thu Feb 08, 2001 1:27 pm

Hello Todd

Welcome and thank you for your contribution to the VSD forums.

You are correct when you state that most martial artists on these forums do not contibute as much to the verbal aspects of self-defense as they do with the physical.
Although they are not discussing VSD as much as the other aspects of self-defense, it does not mean that they will not try it first before using the physical approach.

I teach VSD to my students at my dojo. It is very important for the junior students to learn about VSD first before attempting a physical defense.

I also preach about VSD to the adults, however, in the face of a threat, it is entirely up to them to determine whether physical or verbal would be the better defense. They must determine if physical defense will bring litigation.

With juniors, verbal defense first is a must. Of course no one will sue a child if they act physical first, but the parent of the injured child may sue the other child's parent. Or if the child is a bully, they could sue the karate teacher for not making the child aware that physical self defense should only be used as a last resort.

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War Story

Postby Todd » Thu Feb 08, 2001 6:22 pm

Sensei Testa,

I missed the entire recent blowout as I rarely spend much time at these forums, but I can start to see where some it came from......Not only is teaching of self defense the livlihood of many of the folks in these parts, but it is also a very large part of the peace of mind of everyone coming here.

Good old Maslow, it was his hierarchy of needs in which he theorizes that we can only look forward to meeting our higher level needs after our basic needs of safety, shelter and food have been met.

Many of us reading the forums are trying to increase our knowledge and skills such that we can enhance our feelings of physical safety. When or if someone starts to tell me how to respond to an attacker in my own home, you are no longer talking about some theoretical or hypothetical situation....You are now talking about something to which I invest every ounce of my soul (that is for the protection of self, home, and family)....And I will protect it too.......

At a certain point in our training, it becomes less and less about personal self defense and it can become a form of exercise, meditation, personal bonding with friends, but there are times when no matter who we are, it comes back to being about protecting ourselves and our family, and we may respond like our lives are in danger.....

My original post was overly wordy I know, but I am stil thinking about that book on vsd I had read years back (again, the book was more focused on day to day life, not life and death siutations, but as a karateka, I tried to expand on what it said.....Example

Someone says that you, Sensei Testa, Smell bad, even after coming from the shower (Please forgive me). Your response or mine in identical situation might be to say, oh yeah, your momma is ugly.

What do we have? 1) verbal assault directed at a specific individual.

How to respond......A) Block of verbal Assualt (tis not true, my wife says I always smell nice). Merely blocking the verbal assaults will not work, they will just keep coming and eventually we may become so enraged that we make it a physical confrontation........B) In addition to blocking, we could make our own personally directed verbal attacks. I smell bad. You look ugly. This is likely to escalate to the point of physcial confrontation probably faster than scenario A........C) The book mentions verbal deflection as the most effective against direct verbal assaults....in response to the statement that Sensei Testa smells bad, the verbal deflection would be to say something like "That is a theory that many people have"......you neither agree with the statement nor oppose it. Its like blocking a punch by stepping just out of range.

Proper verbal deflection (I have no idea what terminology is used in that book so I am making up my own right now) depersonalizes conversation.....

Avoid using the words, "YOU", "I", "We", etc. These words personalize the context. One would tend to use tenses that are general and not directed at anyone......

This is not say that this verbal technique cannot be offensive. Imagine in response to the verbal attack, Sensei Testa says, "Well, you know, there are people, lacking any intelligence, who after smelling that garbage dump get confused and think that is someone's body odor. This verbal deflection makes no direct mention of the initial verbal attack, of myself, or the indiviual making the attack. And yet, the attacker feels a sting. He has been verbally assaualted, but he has to sit there and figure out how....By the way, I am not advocating insulting your attackers, but discussing effective uses of vsd.

I dont have sit there and be insulted. I still think the best vsd is the Aikido vsd, use the strength of your attacker against him.

Sesnsei, Forgive me. I have said bad things about you which are to my knowledge untrue. I hope, though, to have added something to this thread.....

Out of curiousity, Sensei, how many books about vsd have you come across????

Peace (that is if you can forgive me) Todd

War Story

Postby Todd » Fri Feb 09, 2001 5:48 am

Sensei Testa,

I was a little too long winded yesterday. One of the most important points that I wanted to make was that we should not be thinking in terms of VSD or plain old fashioned physical self defense (POFSD), but rather, both of them in conjunction.

After Posting, I looked at posts from the previous year, and realized that likely what I was saying had already been said.

But a number of different threads remind me of this thread.....On another thread there is the issue of these ferocious dogs...

How to defend yourself against the most vicious dogs? Most of the responses involved some form of vsd or non-verbal. I.e. In the case of a guard dog specifically, postures should not be directed at the dog so as to challenge the dog (keep your side toward the dog-not your back as this would be a dangerous posture to you and be overly submissive toward the dog.

Particularly interesting was the scenario in which there was an intruder in the home. Should you shoot first (or jump the attacker) with or without the use of VSD. Most people said shoot first....And then we hear the news stories about people who have shot their family members thinking they were burglars.....

I hope my fellow Karateka are not too offended if I say that at times they seem to seek techniques that require little if any thought for how to use them in a real situation. Dont make me think, just give me the one technique that will do it.....I think the best weapon we have is our brain because. Brawn is limited, brain is less so...

I used to tell students that I win 99% of my fights by not being in them. It was my use of postures (VSD and non-verbal sd) that I thought did the trick. It was my goal not to look like the toughest guy on the block (not really a problem), but to make sure I did not appear like the weakest guy either.

If I make myself out to be the toughest guy, strut around like a macho peacock with my chest filled up like a balloon, I will be a magnet attracting every macho tough guy around. If I happen to do this tough guy routine every evening in some bar, I can guarentee sufficient sparrring practice for years to come, heck, if no one pounds me into the dirt, maybe I will become th toughest guy (still unlikely)......The non-verbal can be as important as the verbal, if not more so......

I like to use my non-verbal body language to indicate that, while I may not be the toughest guy, I won't be an easy prey and I wont just roll over......

P.S. Notice, in war story, Sarge was probably certain that Smith had no gun, emboldening him to some degree.

Sensei Testa-please, there is one point I am curious about your opinion-aggressiveness versus assertiveness.

and check it out, not as overly winded....

you can go in peace or pieces, that choice is up to you (that is the option that Sarge gives smith).....Peace or Pieces

War Story

Postby RA Miller » Fri Feb 09, 2001 9:40 am


Thanks for dropping in. You're analysis was very good.

I don't think Len will be upset. If he doesn't stink, he wasn't working out hard enough Image

We've talked quite a bit about VSD as part of the Force Continuum. It's not too big a stretch to point out that even violence is a form of communication and physical self defense may be part of a Communication Continuum.

You and Len both pointed out that VSD requires training. We too often assume that because we know how to talk, we know how to defuse. Sure- and we also can sing opera. Just not very effectively.

Useful points- physical combat skills are great for VSD because it lends the confidence to walk into a situation and try to talk it down. All the VSD skills in the world will not help if you are shaking with fear and the EBG doesn't listen.

Second, goal is all important. A clear, concrete goal. I wanted the inmate to give up the weapon without any officer getting hurt. Protecting his ego furthered that goal, belittling him would have harmed it. Presenting a force-option (such as back-up or OC spray)would have forced him to display fear and lessened the likelihood of achieving the goal.

Context is everything- in the assault you described, you were walking into a pack situation with the goal of stealing the toy. And you were doing it voluntarily. An eighty year-old woman would have had a much easier time, shaking here cane and screeching "What do you boys think you're doing? Don't you have any shame?" and generally using the age/gender gap defuse the positive emotions the beating was generating. A uniformed officer or a priest would have had a better chance because it would be percieved as their job instead of a gambit for status.

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War Story

Postby Todd » Fri Feb 09, 2001 10:07 pm

Many More Apologoies to Sensei Testa,

I still think there may have been a plausible strategy that would have worked for me in my dealing with the pack. My approach was to come in and act authoritatively in a situation where I had none.

Suppose I walked out of the apartment, hung around a little while, looked disinterested, and then made a humorous comment not directly related to the incident....

Who knows? I thought hindsight was supposed to be 20-20...

Thanks for your insight Rory and many thanks for the insight of our moderator, Sensei Testa who took the big step of moderating a forum which probably does not get the serious attention that it deserves.

In addition, I want to pat Sensei testa on the back for taking the stand he does in favor of vsd. Including VSD as part of Karate training is very insightful.

We spend all this time training to defend ourselves, but that does not indicate that we have to fight over every verbal insult. This is one reason vsd is so crucial to karateka.

I think I will spend some more time reading all the old posts before I open my mouth again and insert ye olde foot.

Without getting too corny, let me say God Bless you Sensei Testa, may you be rewarded for your efforts. Todd

War Story

Postby LenTesta » Sat Feb 10, 2001 12:46 am

Why all the apologies? By using me as an example was this your intent to insult me.
It would appear to me that you thought that you were offensive by apologizing.

I did not perceive that you were insulting me. Unless of course that I ALWAYS smell bad, then it may not be an insult after all. Once in a while someone does not have time for proper hygiene, and others who may be within distance take offense. If that is the case, someone says you smell bad, it would depend on the tone and the body language that was used while delivering the line. It is clearly easy to recognize if someone is trying to be truthful or provoking with the spoken word. If I did smell bad and you were telling me that because you wanted to inform me, it should not offend me.

You wrote this as an example, so you say. I can take it either way with written language. Is there an ulterior motive to your example? Why is he singling me out? Is there some truth to his statement? I of course don’t know who are. It does not mean we have never met though, as you have not registered I have no way of knowing if you are using an alias. I have been up front since that day I first posted to these forums registering and using my real name.

Am I always careful when I post a message? No, I am not without faults. Do I claim to be THE VSD expert? No again, I just have had great success in my life talking my way out of physical confrontations.

The written word can be perceived differently. Many posters on this and other forums have reiterated that one should word their thoughts carefully before typing so no one can perceive an insult. It makes it harder when different cultures are involved. The internet is world wide. Never has the ability of the average persons thoughts been spread so far so fast.

I do not want to comment on what you called “the recent blowout”. I feel bad that we moderators displayed our feelings openly in a public forum. You can easily hurt someone without even know that you were dong it. A wrong written phrase that fits in unintentionally, is hardly ever spoken unless it is meant to be said.

With all this in mind I can now respond to your posts.

I have gone over the Fred Pryor seminar tapes, How to Manage Conflict, Anger and Emotion, that Kevin Mackie has lent me.

I also have almost memorized Tony Blauer's Cerebral Self Defense tape. BTW if you have not heard this tape, get it. Coach Blauer’s tape is very enlightening.

I am not one to read books. I have so many things that take up my time that I cannot fit the reading of books in with the reading of these forums. I am an active participant in the other forums along with moderating my forum.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Thanks for your insight Rory and many thanks for the insight of our moderator, Sensei Testa who took the big step of moderating a forum which probably does not get the serious attention that it deserves.
In addition, I want to pat Sensei testa on the back for taking the stand he does in favor of vsd. Including VSD as part of Karate training is very insightful. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Thank you for the praise. It is mostly the verbal insults that lead to a fight, Why not start with VSD to try to stop it from becoming a fight.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
We spend all this time training to defend ourselves, but that does not indicate that we have to fight over every verbal insult. This is one reason vsd is so crucial to karateka.

Yes, I agree. Some words cannot be taken back though. It is difficult to hear someone utter words that totally offend you in such a way that no amount of VSD or apologies can take back what you have said. Many people are very tolerant of what is said to them no matter what the phrase is. Others will fight if they even hear the mention of one word that they abhor.

VSD is like a physical confrontations where you must feel out your opponent.
In a physical confrontation, I want to find out if he is a good kicker, blocker or puncher. I want to find out if he moves in when I attack, or drop back, or do nothing. I want to find out how fast he is. When dealing with VSD it is the same. I need to find out what personality I am dealing with. Is he aggressive, assertive, religious, sexist, racist, quick tempered, thick skinned. It makes a big difference in how you talk to him.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Without getting too corny, let me say God Bless you Sensei Testa, may you be rewarded for your efforts. Todd

Thank you kindly.

BTW I am in a technical field at my day job, therefore I have taken some technical writing classes. One thing I learned from that class was to write what you want to say, then put it away for awhile and come back later and re-read what you wrote. You just may want to change it when you read it later.

Len Testa

[This message has been edited by LenTesta (edited February 09, 2001).]
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