Rory Miller Seminar Review – June 2011

Please note: Any bastardization of Rory’s approach to self-defense is completely my own fault. Herein lies my review:

Rory Miller (right)

At the end of June, I attended a two-day seminar with Rory Miller of Chiron Training.  Graciously hosted by an Uechi-Ryu Karate club, the seminar focused on what Self-Defense was legally and ethically with many interesting drills thrown into the mix.

Day One

The first day was basically ‘theory day.’  27 people were in attendance and it was a great atmosphere.  Rory shared with us his list of seven things he believes makes up self-defense:

  1. Legal and ethics
  2. Violence dynamics
  3. Avoidance/Evasion/De-Escalation
  4. Operant Conditioning
  5. The Freeze (OODA Loop)
  6. The Fight
  7. The Aftermath (Medical/Legal/Social)

We went into great detail for every topic but the topic I found most interesting was about The Freeze.  Everybody freezes.  Everybody gets that “this isn’t happening” moment and, to our detriment, not everybody gets out of it.

The Fight is also an interesting topic for the sole reason that typical martial arts training starts here – instead of way up there at #1.

Lastly, in regards to the list, Rory gave us a ‘Kata’ for The Aftermath:

  • Get to a safe place
  • Check for injury
  • Call the police

We took a break from the lecturing portion and learned a drill called One-Step.  For years, us martial artists have been training to miss (stopping before hitting our training partner), hitting chests instead of other targets and/or wrapping our hands in pillows (not that there’s anything wrong with that as you all know I love my boxing).

But what if we could train those eye pokes, joint locks and pressure points safely within the real context?  One-Step is what I would consider a flow-drill to answer this question.  Moving at the pace of a snail, partners take turns with their movements and all attacks/defenses are allowed.  This standing chess game eventually develops a flow and becomes quite informative and fun.  One-Step was the basis for most drills over the course of the weekend.

Back to the white board.  Rory took us through his (self-described) big legal talk.  He covered different levels of force and explained that if Intent and/or Means changes, we are required to scale force.  He also taught us the difference and purpose behind criminal and civil court and recommended how we should play things out to police officers and jury.

More play.  We took the One-Step further and developed it into a way to read a person while blindfolded.  His website warned that he was ‘partial to blindfolded infighting.’  This was a lot of fun, considering the amount of touch-response is required within the Wing Chun system.

We ended the day with a final talk about how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pertains to violence.  Rory made a strong point: If someone is concerned with the bottom level of the pyramid (survival), is talking to them about their ‘inner child’ (esteem/belongingness) really going to help?

Day Two

I finally got a chance to corner Rory and tell him who I was, “I’m that guy you wrote an article for on the Dark Wing Chun blog.”

Day two was almost all about the drills and it was a blast.  There were significantly less amount of people who were there for day two but it was a more intimate group.

After we warmed up with the One-Step drill, we got into standup, groundwork, pressure points and jointlocks.  It would seem that we covered a lot of material, but it really wasn’t the case.  If was just a different way of organizing all the pieces.  For example, Rory told us that there’s a martial arts system that has 300 wrist lock names.  But, he assured, there was only eight ways to do it based on the fact that the leverage comes from two actions: bend and twist.

Day two was also scenario day.  Rory, with help with the seminar organizers, created about seven different scenarios that played out like car-jackings, shootings, and customer-service incidents.  We each had to do our part critiquing each other by inquiring about the behaviour we each displayed during our role-play.  Our actions needed to be smart – tactically and legally.

The day ended with what Rory calls Plastic Mind Exercises.  I was very curious to find out what these were because I had read about them on his blog.  These exercises, for me, looked a lot like the way some NLP practitioners approach a problem: change the image in your mind and you change the way your body moves and the way you deal with a situation.  This isn’t to downplay what Rory did for us in any way – just a way for me to compare it to something.

Out of all the Plastic Mind Exercises, the one that works the best for him worked the best for me: My opponent is a tool and works for me.  Everything my opponent does, even when they hit me, opens up gifts.

I feel very lucky to have had Rory come out to the East Coast.  I really enjoyed my time with him and the Karate crew who were also a bunch of really great guys.  I didn’t feel out of place at all.

Some people had some negative things to say about how they didn’t like certain drills or positions, but in my mind they were stuck with their blinders on and weren’t seeing the bigger picture: Rory was giving us options and re-organizing information in our brains a little better.

Time well spent.

Favourite quotes from the weekend:

“First you read your opponent, eventually you start to write them.” (Rory told me this was his version of Maija’s version of Sonny’s version!)

“Everything my opponent does is a gift.”

“At the end of this seminar, if I’ve done right, you will have not learned any new material – but a different way of looking at it.”

Peace, CTK

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