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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:24 pm 
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Location: Mansfield, MA USA
Folks,

I had an interesting experience this weekend. I was on a test board, and among the candidates were two women in their late 20s/early 30s testing for green belt. Both started in martial arts within the past 2 years. Both women knew the material and were testing about as expected. Toward the end of the test was the sparring segment. In both instances, when they fought a teenage girl or boy, they were aggressive, and squared off against their opponent. When they were paired with an adult man, you could see them physically shrink. They almost refused to throw punches or kicks, even when they were being hit. They both also had a tendency to look away from the attacker, especially if they were stung by a punch or kick. With a lot of encouragement, both women finally started to hit back and make their opponent move, and both passed the test.

Both of these women are young, strong and healthy. Both of them can hit harder than they think they can. Both are intelligent and knew they couldn’t “wish away” the attacker.

I’m curious if other people out there have had the experience of seeing women (or men) turn away from their attacker, almost as if they weren’t there. How do you approach weaning someone away from that type of dangerous reaction? One of the women told me later it was a defense mechanism. I told her that it was a surrender mechanism. A defense mechanism would be to fight back. The one thing I don’t want to do is to discourage further martial arts study by these women.

Suggestions?

Sincerely,

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:40 pm 
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Seen it many times, and have done it myself in the past. We call it turtling. One way that I learned to break the habit is if I turned I still got attacked. A few hard slaps to the head, kicks to the legs and maybe a choke really drive home the lesson that the attacker does not disappear just because I can't see him.
The other thing is actively teach them getting off line, circling and closing. Many times a person will stay in the danger zone and take a beating, never trying something different.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:12 pm 
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Thanks for your reply Mike. I don't think the issue is strategy or technique as much as an emotional response. They had the techniques to deal with the situation, but were emotionally unprepared. At least that's my read.

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:29 pm 
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Norm Abrahamson wrote:
as much as an emotional response.


or possibly "instinctive". Obviously this is a suicidal response with a predatory attacker, but the woman may not be reacting to the situation instinctively as a predator/prey scenario, rather as a primitive social interaction, and in that case submission might be an effective strategy. If it had been, say, a mountain lion attacking her, I wonder if you wouldn't have seen the aggressive response you were hoping for to begin with. If I'm right, confidence and emotion are red herrings. Instead, you want her to regard her attacker as a predator that she has to fight to survive. Just a thought...

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:08 pm 
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Location: London, Ontario
I am occassionaly guilty of looking away and have found that playing with 'Angry Eyes' really helps pull me back up to the challenge.

I've noticed, in class, it really seems to help the flinch response too.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:16 pm 
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Mike:

An interesting point drawing a distinction between a primitive "social interaction" and a "predator/prey" instinctual reaction. It makes me wonder if this kind of reaction is what allows some men to get away with serially abusing a spouse or girlfriend.

Chris, you said that you are helped by remembering to fight with "angry eyes." Could you tell me what you mean by that and how you pull yourself back into the fight situation?

Sincerely,

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:30 pm 
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Norm Abrahamson wrote:
Thanks for your reply Mike. I don't think the issue is strategy or technique as much as an emotional response. They had the techniques to deal with the situation, but were emotionally unprepared. At least that's my read.

Norm Abrahamson


Hi Norm,
That's why I said to actively teach them getting off line, circling and closing, rather than passively, and if done correctly it brings all the parts together. Knowing techniques and actually being able to use them are two separate things. If you aren't using them because of social or emotional issues then you really don't have them in your tool box. At least that's how we see it where I train.

Bad Jargon Alert: Passive is turn taking where there is no consequence for messing up. Active is more free form where more experienced person doesn't wait very long for the student to act. If the student screws up there is some sort of a consequence.

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Last edited by MikeK on Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:00 pm 
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I guess there are two things to consider here for no eye contact:

1) A typical beginners flaw. Concentrating on the incoming technique to be able to effectively divert it instead of looking the attacker in the eye and "feeling" the incoming attack and having the confidence that your blocking will be effective
2) Women practitioners and ingrained responses (fight and conflict avoidance and generally do no harm).
Quote:
In both instances, when they fought a teenage girl or boy, they were aggressive, and squared off against their opponent. When they were paired with an adult man, you could see them physically shrink. They almost refused to throw punches or kicks, even when they were being hit. They both also had a tendency to look away from the attacker, especially if they were stung by a punch or kick
.
I am a bit surprised at that, 'cause my reaction usually is just in the opposite direction. The more dangerous I perceive the attacker the more hightened my concentration would be and not the other way around, but that might just be experience. Do these ladies spar on a regular basis? Also if I get "stung" I tend to get overly agressive (good ol' adrenalin) :P
I always find it fascinating to watch the girls beat the living daylight out of the full body armor guys (can't remember the name now) :lol:


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:23 pm 
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Put them in a corner where they can't back up and tell them they've got to get out of the corner and keep their attacker on the defensive for 1 minute. (Make sure the guy you put against them is very controlled and won't lose it if the women get very aggressive)

Then put them in the regular sparring situation and remind them that the goal of this exercise is basically the same - they are to do their best to control the sparring interaction and keep their opponent on the defensive.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:58 pm 
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I've seen many manifestations of this through the years.

One very athletic and capable woman told me years ago (1980s, law school) that it was easier for her to get hit than be hit. I've heard this echoed a lot.

Other women have told me that they found it easier to spar with a man than a woman. Then again, I've met many men who had serious problems being appropriately aggressive with a female sparring partner.

We all have ingrained instincts that make it easier to socialize, to raise families, and to create progeny. When you're in the dojo, you're trying to create scenarios which fly in the face of everyday instincts. Most people (85%) in fact would not be able to kill if given a weapon and having had no operant conditioning training. That programmed response guarantees survival of a species. You can kill prey, but not your own kind. Imagine what would happen with wolves if they didn't have these instincts.

This is just part of the mental training which we owe our students if we want to turn karate aerobics into a martial art. Each student presents a unique challenge. Each will need to understand why they come to the dojo, and what they want to get out of it. And each will need to participate in scenario training to guarantee the proper mental responses given a confrontational challenge of any kind.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:26 pm 
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Location: Boise, ID, USA
Dana,

Thank you so much for presenting such a concrete response on how to help women train to spar. I may request that that approach be introduced for some of our more timid students of both genders at our dojo.

As I read this thread, my first thought was, "Did you ask the woman what held her back?" Not that every person's awareness about his/her history is accurate, or especially helpful in every situation, but it might be interesting information to have. Many of us have baggage, and each person has "packed" a little differently.

Mary


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:21 pm 
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I used to be like that, still am to a degree.

But hey, when you have a scary man named Randy standing behind you saying 'hit, or ill hit you' that tends to change the way a person fights.

Besides, who knows how they could go under more pressure.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:14 am 
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I broke this reaction by adopting the habit of always moving in toward the attacker.


~N~

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 5:35 am 
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I’m curious if other people out there have had the experience of seeing women (or men) turn away from their attacker, almost as if they weren’t there. How do you approach weaning someone away from that type of dangerous reaction? One of the women told me later it was a defense mechanism. I told her that it was a surrender mechanism. A defense mechanism would be to fight back. The one thing I don’t want to do is to discourage further martial arts study by these women.


To start I want to state I`ve seen this in plenty of men as well .

I think it comes back mindset training and scenario training , the focus of training , are you encouraging and empowering when training , do you train attack the attack ? , or do you train to block and counter ? , do your drills encourage sucess or failure , do they feel after they need to improve or do they feel empowered ? .

do your drills train confidence and control , do they teach action beats reaction , do they feel safer if they perform the technique ? or do they feel action is a risk .

You also have to have idetified personality and motivation , have you discussed violence ? , how they see it , what they want to acheive , any exploration of a contract with themselves , there values , there beleifs ?

this is a huge topic , and one incredibly personal , however I beleive most can get through this barrier .

I dont think contact and beating the lesson in works for all , though it may for some , but what we need is to promote a feeling of increased safety and control from action , not inaction .

huge topic .


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 6:55 pm 
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Rats, I posted a reply yesterday, but it seems to be gone. Oh well, I'll try again:

Hi Norm,

Quote:
Chris, you said that you are helped by remembering to fight with "angry eyes." Could you tell me what you mean by that and how you pull yourself back into the fight situation?


I'll try to explain: I sometimes feel very small and weak when I'm fighting. It's like the urge to flee or hide kicks in making it difficult to confront the threat. I'm sure we all feel this way from time to time (when having a bad day, or working with a parntner/opponent who ouclasses you, or whatever) and it probably springs from any number of different sources - we can leave that to more qualified thinkers.

The key is, I find, to recognize I'm allowing myself to be small and then to use my imagination to fill myself up. I start at my centre/dantien and imagine energy coursing up through my body and out my eyes. Very much like preparing for Sanchin testing, but on the move. The sensation that follows is one of immense strength and capability and while it doesn't always win the fight the effect is, well.....um, effective: I have noticed that my opponent often notices it - like a switch has been turned on and they had better watch -out.

An excercise I like to do with my class is to have one person stand in a fixed position with angry eyes while their attacker/partner targets/flicks/slaps/pats/pushes/punches(lightly) the face. if the subject can maintain their energy they seem to experience a clarity and aren't put off by the attack. Likewise, if the subject lets the energy drop they tend to flinch. I've got no empirical evidence here, but I've often wondered if there is some kind of balace between the effort invested by the subject and the energy of the attack.

I'm no master, but I'm certain this excersice helps because I've seen improvement in students who perform it - both male and female. It also seems to help the class to discuss what they do with their energy/effort, especially when the discussion is held in the framework of energy as an imangined material they can manipulate with their thoughts - like a theatre/acting excercise instead of a martial arts excercise (not that there necessarily needs to be a difference).

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