Tag Archives: self protection

More on Affordances

A major focus of mine in both Movement Science and fighting/self-protection skills training is the concept of affordances. Below is an excerpt from the book that first introduced me to the concept, which contains a great introduction to the concept as it applies to fighting skills:

“The theory was put forth in the 1960s by an unorthodox psychologist names James Jerome Gibson at Cornell University. Gibson, who died in 1979, said animals and people view their environments not in terms of objectively defined shapes and volumes but in terms of their own behavioral potential. In other words, you immediately apprehend what you see in terms of how you think you can interact with that you see. You see affordances. Affordances make possible and facilitate certain actions. So, handles afford grasping. Stairs afford stepping. Knobs afford turning. Doors afford passage. Hammers afford smashing…

Martial artists see a different set of affordances than people untrained in hand-to-hand combat. Lapels and shoulder fabric are gripping points that afford all sorts of leverage. Elbows and wrists afford a variety of locks and twists. Highly trained martial artists see these affordances directly, as inherent parts of the concept of the body, just as an accomplished pianist sees not just individual keys but whole interrelated harmonic complexes brimming with possible melodies that can be extracted from it’s wholes, not as individual finger and hand movements (Blakeslee & Blakeslee, 2007).”

Blakeslee, S., & Blakeslee, M. (2007). The Body Has a Mind of it’s Own. New York: Random House, p. 106-108.


4/28 VA Class: Get up For the Down Strike

One of our VA students exploring the utility of the elbows at close range to strike upwards and/or cover, then strike downwards into the throat or clavicles on the return. The collar tie can come out of the strike or cover, or from the other arm, and gives her the ability to create a force couple between elbow and target.

4/21 VA class: Fun With Shoulder Locks

Last Saturday’s class featured an introduction to kneeling shoulder locks. After class, I was going through some of the pictures taken for review purposes, and noticed this uncanny (but unintentional) resemblance to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.” During semi-open randori, both students threw their partner in the same direction, and applied the lock at the same time, resulting in the visual pun. Next weekend, we’ll try for da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” out of juji gatame.

FSRI Video: Throws, Pins & Escapes

The Virginia FSRI group has been learning this throw (basic hip spiral/o-goshi) and reviewing falling skills for the last few weeks. The clip shows some different semi-open randori exchanges designed to integrate it with related pin/escape skills.  Continual role switching makes it a bit more challenging and dynamic, but within an environment that’s still conducive to some experimentation (from the 4/7 VA class).

More Fun with Duct Tape: Proxy Weapons of Opportunity

In the previous post, I mentioned using padded “cell phones” and a padded bottle as simulated weapons of opportunity. These aids are very useful for rehearsing recognition and use of weapon-usable objects in the environment. Making these is pretty simple and very cheap:

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Help at the Push of a Button

This semester I agreed to teach a series of weekly self protection seminars for a women’s resource group on Ferrum College campus. Without going into too much detail here (more will follow in later posts), part of my planning for these included researching the contexts and scenarios in which violence against women tends to happen, as borne out by DOJ victimization and outcome stats and reviewing case reports. The incidence data, and conversations with friends of mine who have been victimized made it woefully clear that the “carry your keys in your hand” strategies, and “on the street/in a dark alley” conceptualizations of violence against women are pretty inadequate by themselves, because they only apply to a limited range of the situations in which a woman may find herself at risk . Since this seminar series is for college-aged women, I structured the program to explore the scenarios and types of assault that are created by social, interpersonal and predatory contexts. Continue reading

Change Blindness and Self Protection Training

This article developed out a series of notes on cognitive psychology as it can be applied to self protection (and general fighting skills) training, specifically the different types that we use, and what causes our attentive processes to fail.

Generally speaking, our brains devote more effort towards ignoring stimulus than processing it- roughly 5% of available stimulus is selected to be processed as perception and the rest is selectively ignored. Despite our subjectively rich experience of the visual world, the portion that we can usefully focus on is relatively small and subject to perceptual limitations. The small facets that we do focus on take up valuable neurological “real estate” and each additional detail that we attempt to focus on takes up more of this limited resource. If we focus on multiple things at once, we’re more likely to ignore aspects of each thing that we are focusing on, causing attentive failures (texting while driving, anyone?).

Continue reading