Holding Back Chaos

I heard a great story from George Xu the other day.  On his last trip to China, one morning he found himself in a Taxi line.  I assume I don’t have to tell readers how much transformation has had to come to China in the last 50 years for there to be taxi lines.  So anyway he is waiting in this line leading to the curb and just as he is getting to the front of it a big guy cuts in front to take the cab.
So George says, “Excuse me, there is a line here.  You have to go back and wait in the line.”
The guy says, “Screw you.”
So George maneuvers in front of him and backs him toward a pole where he places his hand on the front of the guys neck, and says, “Please go to the back of the line, everyone is waiting.”
Since George has him completely covered with his weight, the guy mumbles, “Okay.”  So George lets him go and moves toward the cab.
Suddenly the guy says, “Hey, I wasn’t ready!”
So George says, “Okay, are you ready now?”
And the guy says, “Yah, now I’m ready.”
So George gives him one arm circle that sends him flying and rolling on the ground.
The people waiting in the taxi line all begin clapping.  Several people offer thanks because this same guy has done this before.
Then the guy gets off the ground and comes forward in a bowed posture and while gesturing with his hand says, “Excuse me, the taxi is yours.”  Then he saunters off, presumably to find another way to get to work.


Taxis-in-China-3-520x338I love this story, but I think I heard it three times before I understood the humor and irony in it.  Key to the humor is the line “Hey, I wasn’t ready!” and George’s flat response, “Are you ready now?”
This is a very particular type of violence.  Really it is a category of social education.  It doesn’t even come close to qualifying as self-defense.  Here is the four part test:
Intent--the guy’s intent was to take the taxi, not to cause injury.
Means--possibly, he was bigger.
Opportunity--well, George is a martial artist so the guy really didn’t have opportunity, and there were a lot of other people around who might have gotten involved.
Preclusion--nope, George could have walked away without injury at any time, and obviously that is what most people would do.

In my mind I’ve tried to spin it as a modified duel, or an older man protecting his physical space, or a spontaneous attempt to stop a sort of snatch and run type of crime.  But the story doesn’t support any of those interpretations.
If the assault happened in the United States and the guy decided to go to the police to try to prosecute George for assault, George would probably get off one way or another.  I mean all those witnesses took his side.  That kind of thing has a big effect on judges, juries and district attorneys.

The explanation that really fits this story is as follows.  Society is a balance between chaos (wu) and order (wen).  Chaos is waiting, mingling about in everything that appears ordered, waiting to break out and cause havoc.  A taxi line is just a temporary facade, just around the corner death and destruction are on the edge of their seats.  Order is maintained only because some individual heros, men of prowess, privately cultivate inner mastery of chaos and can unleash it in the service of order.  These men of prowess are all independent wanders in the realm of ‘rivers and lakes.’  It is only through their temporary agreements, their alliances, their fleeting commitments to a particular order of society that there is a central authority at all.


While I was writing that last line, I watched a San Francisco Police officer crossing the street in a crosswalk while doing spinning tricks with his baton!  Balls!

"Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes" "Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes"

Slut Walks

hello-kitty-pink-gun-1There is a new movement afoot which is likely to change how we understand self-defense.  As I have stated before, self-defense is a new idea, it is not instinctive.  Self-defense is a notion which has emerged from a particular culture at a particular time and it is not yet fully formed.

The new development is something called a Slut Walk.  A Slut Walk is a street procession in which women wear whatever clothes they want and demand that the streets be safe enough for them to do so at anytime, under any conditions.

In a talk I had with Sgt. Rory Miller a few months back, he commented that as a community we get the crime we tolerate.

Here is the money quote from the article:
The protests began after a police officer told students at Toronto’s York University in January that if women want to avoid rape, they shouldn't dress like “sluts.” (If you thought the days of “she was asking for it” were long gone, guess again.)

Heather Jarvis, a student in Toronto and a co-founder of SlutWalk, explained that the officer’s comments struck her and her co-organizers as so preposterous and damaging that they demanded action. “We were fed up and pissed off, and we wanted to do something other than just be angry,” she said. Bucking the oft-repeated notion that young women are apathetic to feminism, they organized. What Jarvis hoped would be a march of at least 100 turned out to be a rally of more than 3,000 — some marchers with “slut” scrawled across their bodies, others with signs reading “My dress is not a yes” or “Slut pride.”

That all sounds great to me.  But I can't help thinking that the whole thing was started by a misunderstanding.  What the police officer probably intended, was to explain how to avoid being raped from the assumption that we live in a dangerous crime filled world.  Not the assumption that we should tolerate it.  What he most likely intended to convey was very basic advise like 'always pack your own parachute,' because it's your life on the line.  If you get stabbed, and the knife is just sticking out of your chest, leave it there because pulling it out may cause more damage.  I bet this officer also told them not to hitch-hike.

And I might leave it right there, except I've just been in Tokyo where a single woman can go out to a bar at night by herself and get so drunk that she gets lost walking home by herself--without it even occurring to anyone that she is doing something risky.  We get the crime we tolerate.

Slut Walks may actually represent the influence of Japanese society on America.  Then again maybe it is the internal dialog we have been having about women in the Islamic world being forced to wear Burkas and such.

All of this represents a difficult challenge for the theory of self-defense.  Self-defense is justified if a threat has:

  1. Intent

  2. Means

  3. Opportunity and....

  4. You can demonstrate "Preclusion," which means that you can explain why you did what you did and not something else--such that a reasonable person in a similar situation might believe that they would do the same thing.

If a jury believes that it isn't safe to go out in certain neighborhoods after 2am they are assuming that there are men cruising around with 'intent,' and 'means.'  The jury could ask, "Why didn't you take away these evil predators 'opportunity' by staying indoors?"  When women are accused of risky behavior (ie. dressing like a slut) it is a challenge to the 'preclusion' part of the self-defense equation.  The answer to the jury's question should be this, "I did take away those evil predators 'opportunity' to do evil, I shot them.  I had to shoot them because this community tolerates them."

Support your local Slut Walk!

(Mexico gets in the game)

Mothering and Othering: Making an Immortal Baby

pregnant-happy-womenThe most basic, primal, reduction of the notion of self-defense is the protection of a baby in the womb.  It totally trumps castle law and threats to life and limb.  If a pregnant woman rips out a man’s throat, or shoots or stabs him, all she has to claim is she was protecting her baby.  As long as she can plausibly make that claim, no jury in any civilized country would convict her.  Even a child would at least have to make the case that running away was a bad option, or that lethal force was justified, but a pregnant woman unaided and under attack can get away with almost anything.

Obviously pregnant women do everything possible to avoid having to fight, above and beyond the rest of us, which is probably why their case for justified self-defense seems so strong, so pure.

But that’s an aside, here is the main question.  What is the psyco-physical state a female uses to protect her fetus and, by extension, small children close at hand?  Pregnant women, in my limited experience are often happy and relaxed.  Compared to the average person they have virtually zero abdominal tension.  We understand this viscerally.  If we were carrying a baby inside our body we would be careful in all our movements to not transmit tension to the baby.  The way we walked, moved our arms and turned our head would all keep in mind treating the baby with loving care.  We would avoid shaking or bouncing unless the baby seemed to like that.  And when the baby was sleeping we’d probably be careful to move in a way that wouldn’t wake the baby.

e1alch-sA woman who is pregnant is doing this all the time.  So in the event that she needed to fight, it seems possible that she would maintain this attitude or at least be physically informed by it.  Think for a moment though, how such a fighting style would look.

First of all, it could not rely on structure or rooting because pregnant women tend to have poor structure and balance.  They have a lot of mass to wield, but the movements of the  arms would likely be used clear a large area around the belly while attacking in circles.  The mind, rather than focusing on death points to attack, would be using massive force to throw an attack back.  In other words, a pregnant woman might fight using the tai chi and bagua notion of a giant rolling ball.

The mind of the pregnant women, if she made the actual jump to fighting, would be fierce beyond reckoning.  A parallel with the concept of “xu” we have written about before is pertinent here.  “Xu” literally means fake, but in martial arts it refers to a body which is not giving off self-identity signals, a body which does not respond to pain, a body which has let go of all tension.  The pregnant woman who has made the jump to fighting is fighting for the baby, not herself.  The experience might be de-personalized, the baby has needs, the baby is the future, what happens to the outer body is secondary, the outer body can risk being destroyed as long as the baby is fully and totally protected.

This seems to invoke the image of two bodies, an inner one and and outer one completely differentiated-- a qi (potent energy) body, surrounded by a jing (relaxed mass) body.  To make this match up with the standard internal martial arts lingo is a small leap.  The inner body (the baby) is qi, it is potential energy, pure animation which is round in shape and when awake, can extend several feet beyond the outer flesh body of the ‘mother.’  The qi body (the baby’s needs and perhaps its will) seems to take over the mother;  however, the qi body is blind to what is happening outside, so it must be led by the mind.  The mind of the mother controls the space and defines the environment around herself.  The mind goes first, the dynamic energy of the baby (qi) follows the mind.  The mass of the mother’s body (jing) always puts the baby energy ahead of its own needs.  The shen (spacial mind) leads the qi (energy body) and the qi leads the jing (body mass).

04dThis appears to be a very obvious, though over looked, explanation of why  Daoists have so often used the metaphor of making an immortal baby to describe the internal elixir practices of neidan, and jindan.

Try this practice: Imagine you have a baby in your lower dantian. Try to move without waking up the baby.  Do this over a period of months and gradually increase the range on motion in which you can move without waking up the baby.  Eventually your body mass will become very quiet.  This is called purifying jing.  This is, of course, also a description of doing a tai chi form, or so called ‘pre-heaven’ Baguazhang.

Once the jing is purified and the body is quiet in motion, then you can experiment with waking up the baby.   While the baby is sleeping there will be no power.  After the baby is awake, power will seem to come from emptiness.

All this suggests a composite mind and a composite body.  At the moment we are dealing with massive generalizations and oversimplifications but let me sketch it out quickly.  The composite mind has several models.  One model is the lizard, mammal, frontal cortex (human)--a three part mind where the lizard is powerfully focussed on survival and aliviating pain, the mammal is obsessed with status, pleasure seeking, emotions and group bonding, and the frontal cortex is all about planning, imagining and rational thought.  There are other models too.
Models for the composite body come from evolutionary theory.  Our bones were once an exoskelatin, a shell which got covered in a wormy substance we call muscle.  Each part of our brain comes from a different type of body substance which at some point in our evolution was an independent animal.  We are composite forms which tend to organize all these ‘minds’ and ‘bodies’ in standard ways, however, extreme circumstances or carefully designed practices can alter the organizational order of this conscious/unconscious mass of kinetic life energy.  Just a thought.


It seems to me that in utero, before we get the gender defining hormones, males and females both have a proto-womb.  Perhaps this is even true to some extent for pre-pubescent children.  I would like to propose what must seem obvious to many people, that this proto-womb is what martial arts, theater, meditation and ritual all refer to as the lower dantain.

The womb seems to have some independent connection to mind, as if it was an earlier life form in our evolution, which can re-assert itself when other aspects of our composite body-mind are quiet.


When a mother fights, the ground belongs to her baby.  Dantian, literally means cinnabar field, red ground.  Everything which enters that field belongs to the baby.  Even the mother’s own body belongs to the baby.  The fighting mind of a pregnant woman has a very unique way of owning space, a unique way of possessing.

Contrast this with the social form of fighting that men do.  One man pees on a tree to mark his territory with his testicular scent.  Another man then does the same thing and they fight over ownership.  The peeing doesn’t actually have to take place, it can just be assumed.  This testicular marking style of fighting involves a sense of ownership too, but it is less absolute.  Subordinate yourself to the dominant male and the fight is off.  Fights for status are rarely lethal and are usually resolved with simple posturing.

The testicular scent fight is a battle of and for identity, “My body owns this! and belongs here! doing this!”  The womb fight is asocial, “Don’t even think about hurting this baby or you will die (after you’re dead I’ll make a decision about whether or not you are good food for my baby).”
When two men fight over testicular scent, they each extend their minds right up to, but not through, their social challenger.  Two testicular scenters engaged in hand to hand combat are usually very close together, but their minds do not extend much beyond their own bodies and thus the jing (body mass) and the (potential energy) remain mostly mixed up within the body.   Because the qijing and qi do not differentiate the power is very limited.

goddess-kali-idolWhich brings us to othering.  Othering is the psyco-physical process of dehumanizing an individual or a group of people so that you can kill them without feeling social restraint or remorse.  Othering is shorthand for:  “Seeing someone as belonging to another species.”  Butchering animals may be totally natural on a farm, or while hunting, or it may need some training.  Certainly us urban people need to get past our squeamishness in order to butcher an animal.  After I caught, gilled, cleaned and iced 128 King Salmon in one day in Alaska I was haunted by fish eyes whenever I looked closely at anything shiny.  But other than that, I had successfully othered them.

If a person is raised to believe that another ethnic group or tribe is inferior, the process of othering is probably already complete.  When a criminal plans an assault, most likely he or she has already gone through a process of othering.  It is important to think about because in some cases you may be able to avert an assault by somehow getting the assailant to see you as a member of his tribe.  Othering is a justification process.

What does the psyco-physical experience of othering do to the mind and body?  To successfully other, is to shut off, like flipping a switch, all immediate social impulses.  So while it may be possible for a human predator to get close to someone by imitating social behavior, the behavior is not tied to a script, so when the range is right the knife simply goes in.  It is nearly always a surprise to the person being othered.  It’s also very quick and uses overwhelmingly superior force.  Although if simply threatening force is likely to allow the predator to achieve his or her goals then there may not be an actual assault.  It seems like the mind in these cases sees a victim as kinetic energy to be controlled or extinguished.  It’s not a contest for ownership, total ownership of the space is established before the assault.

Othering doesn’t require much physical training or energy work or relaxation techniques.   It only requires that the mind sees the immediate environment as inside its control.  In George Xu’s words, “The wolf thinks: ‘This territory is my refrigerator.’”  So in this case, the mind definitely leads the body mass (jing) but it doesn’t matter whether the jing and qi are mixed as long as the predator has enough skill to sneak up on the prey.  (In other words, predators in nature often need extraordinary skill to hunt, and thus they have perfect differentiation of jing and qi, but human predators can use weapons, so they don’t.)


Mothering is the source of all compassion. Mothering is the psyco-physical process of extending ones mind to include someone or something within ones field of protection.  To mother is to project the sense of “my baby” out into space.  It is a very potent place to fight from.
Othering is nearly the direct opposite of mothering.  It is a process of extending ones mind to surround but totally exclude someone or something from the protection one affords himself.
And Testicular Scenting is just a cute term for "the monkey dance."