Meeting Devi – Rory Miller



The more comprehensively you understand the game, any game, the better you can play. When the game is like life, where most of the rules are imaginary anyway (you bring theses rules to the table and you enforce them on yourself) there is immense freedom in seeing things as they are.

It’s broad, too, and the second I wrote ‘games’ part of your brain locked in because games are defined by rules. If you break the rules you cease to be playing the game. Really? Always?

The ability to see the problem broadly (since this is about conflict and self-defense, you know where this is going) amounts to a super-power. Too many people think that self-defense starts when the first strike begins. That is narrow, in both perspective and time.

Teja showed up at the seminar in Boston, despite her injuries. You could tell it was driving her nuts not to play hard.

She also gave me a copy of her video. It is an introduction to a woman’s self-defense program designed by women and for women. In most of my encounters I’ve been the small guy, but never to the extent that Teja is: routinely out-weighed by three times and out-powered by five, that is Teja’s world. That is the world of many, maybe most, women who face violence.

It must ring hollow when a six-foot male martial arts or self-defense experts advises walking tall with your shoulders back or tells you that move X or position Y or the attitude of naked (testosterone driven) aggression will save the day.

I love the thought process that Teja put into her work. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing self-defense or even fighting as problems of applying strength, size and speed. Many systems maximize the efficiency of delivering size, speed and strength… what if you don’t have it? How can you see the problem more broadly?

I want to split the post here, partially exploring the other options– how strategy and positioning can substitute for speed and strength; how environmental awareness can give you more options for greater damage than perfecting a strike… all that stuff.

I also want to rant about the inefficiency (is that the word I want? Not quite) of self-defense programs designed by fit young men, or adapted from military systems that are designed around young men, full of hormones, eager to show their courage at a time when joints and bone heal most easily. Programs designed to be used by people that don’t fit the victim profile.

Teja understands her vulnerability and faces it square on. She is a trained (and efficient and aggressive–she couldn’t play hard but we got to play and she played well) sayoc kali fighter. But she doesn’t look at things just through that lens. She works mental and physical skills. She thinks about protecting her child. She does not tell students the answers, but gives them lists of options. The students work it out: What could I do? Where does that choice naturally lead?

If it seems like I’m going all fan-boy, tough. That’s a lot of my own ego. One of the fascinating things about this exploration of violence is that there are very few people doing the field research. Before the internet, most of us were pretty damn isolated and consequently each of us had to invent our own language for some concepts. We all wondered if anyone else saw what we did.

A lady on the wrong (I mean East) coast, with different experiences, a different martial lens, different attitudes, experiences and parameters, has created teaching that resonates. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like I did better than I realized.

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