The untapped power of violent sneezing
First we discussed the pros and cons of robbing strippers before breaking into groups to plan a violent crime.
After lunch we practiced stopping an attacker with a fake sneeze. It’s all par for the course when you spend a day with Rory Miller.
With years of experience in the US prison system, a degree in psychology and a refreshingly direct approach to life, Rory’s understanding of violence and his insight into human behaviour introduces us to some fascinating but unsettling concepts. This year’s workshop focused on predator violence and the dark side of having higher brain functions. As Rory says ‘Humans are unique in that they are the only animals capable of hunting their own species’. From the start of the session he was very clear that he wouldn’t be teaching anything new about the logic of violence because it is so familiar to us already.
We don’t like to think about it but we are all apex predators and whether it’s a mouse in the garage or an old lady on pension day, we instinctively know how to hunt our prey.
The 6 basic principles of the logic of violence are introduced on Rory’s Chiron Training Blog and if you haven’t read any of his work this is a good place to start. In lawful western society, we use our innate hunting skills when we are looking for a place to eat in an unfamiliar town or when we are waiting for a house fly to land before we squash it.
If however a person decides their goal is someone else’s money, their body or their life, the same hunting skills apply. Seeing how easy it was to plan a violent crime made it uncomfortably clear that the only difference between a lawful person and a violent criminal is the resource they desire.
This illustrates the concept of affordances, something that ran consistently through everything we covered in both the Logic of Violence and Infighting sessions that filled our day.
The idea of affordances is simple, you cannot use any tool, object or skill for a purpose that you can’t imagine. When thinking of uses for a chair, it doesn’t take a Krav student long to think of it as a weapon or a shield. It takes more imagination to use it as a ruler or a grappling hook. What I didn’t appreciate until this seminar is that the same principle applies to all of our fighting tools whether they are fists, knees or sneezes. We all expected that an afternoon of infighting would involve learning a host of new techniques but instead we discovered new uses for the tools we already possess. This concept is very similar to the origins of Krav Maga.
Imi Lichtenfeld was an accomplished wrestler and boxer but he knew that ring fighting skills were not ideal for self defence on the street. His answer was to think of new ways to use the same basic tools and make them effective in the real world.
Gathering in the hall before the start of the infighting session there was a definite air of excitement. Some us were strapping on protective gear while others warmed up or chatted about what the next few hours might entail. As well as the usual safety warnings, Rory asked us to make sure that we didn’t have any weapons on the training floor as any good infighter will take your weapon and use it against you. As someone who trains security personnel in the US I’m sure he expects course participants to be armed but I was glad that I’d thought ahead and left my reinforced metal pen in my bag.
The basic format for the day was simple, ‘We are all animals and animals learn through play’. The game was infighting and there were no rules, just the opportunity to try new tactics and find out what works for you. My partner for the afternoon was a very experienced fighter but one of the few participants without a background in Krav Maga. Early in the first round we made simultaneous discoveries. He found out why we all wear groin guards just as I found out he wasn’t wearing one. Then he elbowed me in the face and I knew we would get on very well.
At various points throughout the session, Rory would get us all together and select two volunteers, one for the demonstration and one to hold his coffee. He would remind us of a basic principle or technique, suggest some new ways of using it, then send us away to play with it. Pushing your partner over with a sneeze was the most memorable lesson for me. Fighters spend years learning to coordinate their muscles and breathing in order to strike with maximum force. A sneeze however naturally engages all of the chest muscles with a sharp exhalation, rapid forward motion and enough power to drive your opponent off balance if you extend your arms. It worked pretty well during the game though it’s hard not to laugh every time you do it. At the end of the session when we were lining up for the obligatory selfies I noticed that after three hours of coaching, Rory was still holding his coffee cup.
Although Rory undoubtedly has a lot of knowledge, skills and experience, it’s his approach that sets this training apart. Like the Krav Maga principle of building a trained technique from a natural reflex, Rory reminds us that ‘Every human alive is a natural survivor, the product of ancestors who survived long enough to have children.’ We were born with the tools we need for effective self defence, we just need to learn better ways to apply them and when that time comes, give ourselves permission to be violent.
Author: Chris Knox is a student at West Coast Krav Maga and trains at our Preston, Blackpool and Lancaster Self Defence Classes. Krav Maga is a principled based system of self defence and the fastest way to remind yourself how to protect yourself when you’ve forgotten what your naturally capable of achieving.