blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Topic the First:

4th Street was a great experience this year--a great and glorious disproving of my usual silly pre-con anxiety of "This time no one will acknowledge my existence." For me, the most wonderful parts are between and/or triggered by the scheduled events. It's the conversations about why some authors successfully cross genre lines, examining creeping biases, opening publishing opportunities, determining themes, working with and as a beta reader, and and and... Truly, I LOVE those free-ranging conversations. I love even more that I can share them with folks who equally love them.

Part of me would be just fine with a con that had a mere three conversation-launching panels a day, and that's the fault of fascinating people who are willing to share their thoughts and experience outside the panels.

As always, there is never enough time to talk at length with every person I'd like to. That's the downside to knowing a small handful of really cool people; they keep introducing you to other cool people! And though I did make an effort to be more deliberate in spending time with a variety of folks this year, I missed a couple folks I deeply wanted to chat with. (I'm looking at you, John Wiswell!) Alas, I think this is an unfixable thing for me, for even if the con were a day or two longer, I tend to hit the Wall of Introvert Overload at around 72 hours. I simply lose the ability to be intelligently sociable with more than one person at a time at that point.

Topic the Second:

Sirens Conference! My afternoon class proposal was accepted!

I'll be presenting The Movement You Don't See. The (still unofficial) description is:

Fight scenes require more than cool choreography, but not everyone has years to invest in fight-training before writing their epic adventure! Here's your chance to learn lesser-known physical details of fighting through the practices of kata--the martial arts training tool of choreographed techniques.

In this movement-filled workshop, you'll discover the internal landscape of a fighter--the grounding, power generation, body awareness, and exertion your fighting characters experience in action. Whether writing a training montage, or an experienced fighter's battle, having the "insider" experience will add depth and realism.

Physical activity is included, but not required. Observers and listeners are welcome.


Yes, it's exciting to present at Sirens, but it's also exciting to share why kata is such an effective training tool for mind-body awareness and self-defense. (Check out The Purpose of Kata for a preview on that.) It's the little things that matter, and I'm so looking forward to passing a few of those things along. How a pelvic tilt affects the strength of a block, how the angle of the back foot affects the strength of a strike, how the lift of the shoulder affects stamina... All these things and more.

Honestly, I wish I could get a two-hour block of time. :)

Topic the Third:

I'm in the process of putting reader feedback together with writerly goals to determine my upcoming project schedule. For me, determining a schedule that is both satisfying and realistic (and it's the latter I fail at, alas) required breaking down the projects by wordcount. The process revealed I've an estimated 1,135,000 words to write if I want to complete everything on my list.

This is exciting and comforting! Truly, I could fail to generate a new idea for about three years before running out of material. I'm set for the near future. :)

Topic the Last:

That hip dysplasia thing.

Remember when I fell down the stairs a couple months ago? Yeah. Well, I just assumed it happened because my left knee and ankle have always been weaker and more prone to injury. Come to find out that is true... but the reason it's true matters. When the left hip suffers from inflammation, it puts pressure on the nerve running down the front of my thigh, and the nerve doesn't then function properly, which causes the left leg to collapse. It's like trying to do push-ups with one arm having "fallen asleep."

The fact the nerve pressure isn't causing pain is actually a bad thing, in my opinion. If I felt pain, I'd know to take it easy. Instead, my "warning" that something is wrong usually comes in the form of the leg collapsing. That fall down the stairs isn't the first time it has happened, but it was the first in a series. Even now, as I'm sitting in a restaurant to write this, the front of my left thigh is getting that "falling asleep" sensation because I've sat in one position too long.

But here is the COOL thing. [livejournal.com profile] mrissa introduced me to a physician who also has a martial arts background, and who understood in a heartbeat my internal crumbling over this whole thing.* I'm still not at all ready to roll into surgery (not only for personal reasons, but financial and logistical ones), but her quiet words and empathy carefully tunneled through a wall others have beaten upon for quite some time.

She's one of those folks I wish I would have had more and more and more time with, truly. Medical stuff aside, she's a cool person.

So there's the lesson I can pass along today: One way to get someone to do something they don't want to do is to understand fully and deeply why they don't want to do it, and share that understanding without judgment.


There is no Topic the Fourth. I'll see what I can come with another time. :)




*Yes, I hid out to cry after our conversation. Truly, if you ever want to see my cry, don't try to insult or hurt me. Be nice and kind and empathetic. Does the trick every time.
blairmacg: (belt)

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.  Because they’re wonderful patrons, they support making the articles on self-defense and fight scenes available to everyone within a month of the original posting.  So if you like it, thank the patrons, or consider becoming one yourself!

*  *  *  *

Run away when you can!  First rule of self-defense!

Hang around martial arts and self-defense instructors long enough, you’re bound to hear this advice given over and over.  Some would tout it as the most important advice, but it’s most akin to, “Major in engineering (or whatever is financially lucrative),” or perhaps “Always eat organic foods.”

The temptation to make “run away” the foundational principle of self-defense lies in its simplicity.  But since the advice is usually given rather than taught, its limitations are rarely considered, and how to use it as a successful and integrated portion of an overall strategy isn’t much discussed.

The most important piece of self-defense advice is actually, “Avoid the fight, or make it as short as possible.”  That’s the defining strategy to avoid harm to self and others.  “Run away” is but one of many possible tactics in support of that strategy.   But the conditions under which it’s the best  option are limited, and teaching it as one’s primary technique is as responsible as teaching everyone in the world to take the stairs instead of the elevator in order to improve their health.

Since most self-defense instructors were taught by—and teach, and are themselves—people of a certain baseline fitness and physical mobility, the assumptions behind “run away” aren’t always examined.  So let’s take a look at them, and narrow down the circumstances under which running is indeed the best option.

First, understand running away is not a passive act.  It is resistance.  It is an escalation.

The moment a victim chooses to run, the attacker must decide if the victim is a lost opportunity—not worth additional action—or a threat to survival.  If the fleeing victim is thought to pose a threat, the attacker must then decide whether the best way to neutralize the threat is to escape it by doing their own running, or to capture and control it.  And if capture is determined to be best, the victim is no longer running from a fight.  He’s being chased down by one.

Mind you, I’m not against running.  I am for understanding and teaching its limitations.  Such as…

1.  Running-is-best assumes you have both greater speed and stamina than your attacker, and you happen to be wearing more running-appropriate clothing and footwear as well.

Certainly some folks can train well and hard to increase their ability to run.  Certainly folks can choose to always wear run-friendly shoes (or, as some advocate, learn to run like the wind in heels). Certainly many more folks would sigh over those options because…

2.  Running-is-best assumes you don’t have a limiting physical condition.  Asthma, gout, arthritis, injuries, third-trimester pregnancy, vertigo…  I can’t tell you how many self-defense teachers will brush those concerns aside with, “Adrenaline will make it possible!” or “You’ll be surprised what you can do when you have to!” or the most toxic “You can do it if you really try!”

And if we all clap our hands and really-o truly-o believe, Tinkerbell shall fly again.

Y’all know by now I deal with hip dysplasia.  That hip has collapsed unexpectedly while I’m just walking.  I and others who deal with similar and more severe issues know better than to count on The Think Method as our primary means of escaping trouble with a capital T.

3.  Running-is-best assumes you aren’t in the company of someone who needs your help in the face of a threat.  A child.   An older parent.  A partner or friend who uses mobility aids to get around.  Someone who has, say, hip dysplasia.

Most assuredly, you might still be able to run.  But it’s bad form to leave behind those who can’t run away from what you’re escaping.

4.  And running-is-best assumes you have a place to run to that is better than where you’re running from.  I understand the urge to believe anywhere is better, but that’s a false—and therefore dangerous—belief.

Consider the 11-year-old boy who, lost in the woods, hid from would-be rescuers for four days because his parents had been very clear on “stay away from strangers,” but never added, “go toward these people.”  And all it takes is one wrong turn to go from a populated area that might discourage an attacker to a deserted alley holding no deterrence at all.

To sum up: The tactic of running is most likely to succeed when you are alone, dressed to run, fit and able to run faster and farther than your attacker, and have a safe destination in mind.

So… what about all those other times?

Buy time, and buy it loudly.

As I said above, every act of resistance—every choice that is not total compliance—is an escalation of the encounter.  The attacker’s response to the escalation is not within the victim’s scope of control, but the victim can do things to deter or narrow responses.

Chase down a victim is not the same decision as chase down a victim who already jammed fingers into my eyes. Or rammed knuckles into the windpipe.  Or whipped a cane against the knee.  Or swung a loaded diaper bag across the nose.

You see, every single act of resistance before the running (or the jogging, or the limping) adds a variable to your attacker’s plans.  Increasing the number of variables tends to decrease the assumption of success.

Unpredictability increases the likelihood of failure, and failure for an attacker means physical pain, public discovery, loss of freedom, and possibly death.  Merely running gives the attacker a single calculation to perform.  Striking and screaming before running exacerbates the attacker’s doubts.

Since I know I can’t count on my hip to hold up under pressure, I will choose my strikes according to how much they’ll slow pursuit.  I will always choose a kick to the knee over a punch to the jaw, a sharp jab to the eye over a shove to the chest, and a fist to the throat over a knee to the gut.  I might be able to sprint; I might have a leg collapse in mid-stride.  Thus I want to leave my attacker struggling to breathe, or see, or limp rather than capable of chasing me down in rage because I bopped him in the mouth.

And do not for a moment buy in to the judgment of, “If your attacker is so close you can’t run away, you’ve already done something wrong.”  It’s a snooty philosophy that assumes telepathic and precognitive skills alongside a life lived either in utter solitude or perpetual paranoia.

Yes, it’s true: a well-trained person will have the skills, calm, and reflexes to attempt to talk an attacker down, or redirect the aggression, just as a well-trained person in the right circumstances can indeed run away without suffering further consequence.  And it’s really nice to think of running away as an element of non-violence without its own moral cost.

But everyone else in the world–everyone who does not at this instant have amazing, or even foundational, physical abilities, and everyone who does not at this moment have two, three, five, fifteen years of training–deserves to have options right now.  And brushing away that truth with, “Hey, just run away!” isn’t all that helpful.

So why, you ask after all that, is running touted as the bestest and most common self-defense advice?

Quite simply, because most teachers teach only the able-bodied, or the close-to-able-bodied.  Most instructors never have to answer a fearful, “But what can I do?” from a man using a cane or a woman a month from giving birth.  Most instructors don’t even mention the cascade of decisions that come into play when a person must consider what their choices will mean for the six-year-old at their side.

Telling someone to always run away first is simple.  Following such advice often isn’t.

So absolutely run if you’re able to run, and if the consequences of running are acceptable to you.  Just know your intentions, understand your assumptions, and consider your options before you do.

If you found this article valuable, and would like to see more, consider becoming a supporter through Patreon!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Dev has his car again!  We are most pleased.  He also at last settled on Halloween plans.  He is still a little amazed he can simply plan to take off without needing to coordinate our schedules.

I plan to hide at home with a horror flick or three. We're far enough out in the country no one trick-or-treats, which I must say makes me a little sad. I loved Halloween when Dev was little, and when my nephews were around. Now it's just... meh. Maybe it'll be fun again next year.

***

Autumn has been lovely so far. It's the sort of weather I'd want year-round -- upper 60s to mid 70s by day, 40s and low 50s overnight. The cloudiness gets tiresome when it lasts more than a couple days, of course, but we've had enough sun to make me happy.

Speaking of sun, I've already started my Vitamin D supplements. I was very bad about it last winter, and am fairly certain the lack helped shove me into the most emotionally crappy winter I've ever experienced. (As I told a friend, I wasn't ready to blow my head off but I could see the roadmap that would take me there.) Thus the D is for me, every day from now to March. And if D wasn't the issue, I'll gladly accept a placebo effect.

***

Dev has started making purchases with the idea of "When I get my own place" in mind. He bought himself an entertainment center for his room, and purchased some cool art pieces at Awesome Con. The cleanliness of his room has become important enough to him that I no longer have to remind him of it. Total coolness, if you ask me.

***

I'm fairly certain my opinion on who "should" write and publish has at last exhausted the patience of those who perhaps assumed I'd soon come to my senses (or at least hush up more often).

For the record, my opinion is this: We don't tell musicians they should stop recording because there are already too many songs. We don't tell artists their work must be hidden away if it isn't hanging in the most exclusive galleries. We don't deride actors who eschew blockbuster films in favor of experimental theater. There is no way I'd tell writers there are already too many books, their writing must remain unread, and choosing to remain independent is indicative of failure.

But that's just me.

***

A couple years ago, Dev was given Dragon software to help him write his papers. It actually helped him transition to doing more writing, and he hasn't used it in ages. When his computer crashes awhile ago, he didn't even bother reloading it.

Me, I got all excited about the idea of trying it out. Y'see, this whole crappy hip thing is making it hard for me to sit or stand in a keyboard-friendly posture for a long time, and my desire to write is running into increasing physical discomfort. Alas, we cannot find the serial number thingy anywhere, and don't have access to any proof of purchase.

Now I must decide if experimenting with the software is worth purchasing the software. Anyone with other ideas is welcome to share them. :)
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I've mentioned my hip dysplasia before. (Here's some general info, if you want it.)

Martial arts training -- specifically the ligament-strengthening it imparts -- has done a fantastic job of reducing my incidence of partial dislocation to almost nil for years. I'd been feeling pretty happy about it, really, since I'd been told in my 20s that I'd likely need a double hip replacement by the time I turned 40.

But over the last few months, there have been... signs. The left leg is growing a little weaker. The left hip is constantly uncomfortable. The right hip doesn't ache so much, but the misalignment from hip to ankle is getting worse. Worse, as in, almost impossible to align a bent knee over my toes in all but one position. I tried to demonstrate a spin kick in slow motion and had the left leg give out.

So. It's time to stop acting as if it'll go away. I can either keep doing everything I'm doing and make it worse faster, or I can modify/stop doing many things in order to preserve the joints as long as possible and, quite possibly, stop hurting all the time.

I'll be heading to a chiropractor at the end of the month -- one who specializes in working with joint issues and body alignment. In the meantime, I have a list of things I'm not supposed to do for awhile. We're going to see if stopping certain activities will reduce the pain.

No squats, jumps, sit-ups, or leg-lifts. No deep stances, and great caution with stances that put a greater load on one leg than the other. No high kicks or kicking a target. DEFINATELY no side kicks. No dodging (as in sparring and active self-defense). No running.

I can still run kata, as long as I mind my positions and torque. I can still teach and coach. AND I CAN STILL PUNCH. :)

On the non-factual side... Can I admit there's still a little voice in my head telling me I'm a wimp? That if karate really mattered, I'd push through? That telling the voice pushing through would be stupid results in that little voice making fun of me?

Yeesh, ego can be a terrible thing!

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