Shoulder Mobility

Here is another great video from Steve Cotter on mobility.  So many guys who work a lot to develop upper body strength also tend to have terribly tight shoulders.  This tutorial is specifically in prep for overhead squats, but shows great movements, in general, for working towards better mobility in the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder.  As Cotter points out, being this kind of joint means that you should have 360 degrees of mobility (unfortunately, the more mobility, the more risk for instability).  You can see how well developed his physique is, so there is truly no room for excuses about big muscles and reduced range of motion being mutually exclusive–they do not have to be!

Tiny Spaces and Angry People

Have you ever gotten agitated because someone invaded your personal space bubble?  Did you ever have an acquaintance that constantly got in your face to talk, even as you continually backed up to create distance?  I feel certain you have experience one or both of these.  We all possess personal space zones, and human beings also have a lot of rituals that they go through to maintain them.  Our space needs differ based on our culture and whether or not we were raised in a crowded city or in the country (folks from the country tend to like more space).  Here in the U.S., the general rules are:

  • Intimate Zone—18 inches and in from the front.  (for close friends, family, significant others—think emotional bond)
  • Personal Zone—30 inches to 4 feet (friends, co-workers, etc.)
  • Social Zone—4 to 12 feet away (people we don’t know very well)
  • Public Zone—12 feet and beyond (strangers, public speaking)

This, of course, does not take into account new transplants from other countries, as they tend to adhere to the cultural norms from their home country.  Hence the occasional guy or gal that hovers like a cloak in the grocery store line, because that is precisely what he or she is accustomed to!

I was once told by an instructor that our personal space is more of an oval; we seem to be more comfortable with people flanking us at closer range.  I have also read that the space we require behind us can be double of that in front.  I find it interesting that public transportation violates most, if not all of the spatial relationship “rules” in American culture (is this why we don’t embrace it as much as other countries do?)  Is this why some folks lose their ever-living minds when they travel this way?  Most of us cope with the violation through defensive displays of body language:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Folding arms and crossing legs (to close ourselves off)
  • Remaining silent
  • Immersing ourselves in reading material and/or other distractions

There is a strong correlation between over-crowding and violent crime, so it seems like a logical leap to me that some people just get more agitated while riding in a bus or plane and therefore have tremendous potential to explode at people and situations.  Then some of us unwittingly poke the bear, failing to take note of their agitation and/or defensive body language.  It seems logical to make another leap and assume that some people cope with the space violations by starting conversations, in attempt to ease the burden of someone invading their bubble.  Of course, there’s always the obvious choice that there are those among us who are just annoying jerks.  Nevertheless, I have heard many a tale over the years of bizarre behavior aboard all manner of people-movers, and I have to wonder if there are other underlying factors at work, other than insanity or being terminally ill-natured.  Either way, it is probably best not to engage them if you can help it, and don’t allow them to get you riled—there is nothing quite like LOTS of angry packed liked sardines in a tiny space.

Joint Mobility

A few years ago I watched a video by Scott Sonnon on joint mobility.  The video was entitled Warrior Wellness.  I really enjoyed it and drew a lot from it that we still use for warm-ups.  Steve Cotter, who has a background in Qigong and is also a big proponent of overall wellness, presents a lot of great exercises he does for joint mobility.  I did a recent post on Cotter and the Tea Cup.  Check out this video (Part 1):

Choke from the Front: Krav Defense

I really like the way John Whitman explains things.  So clear and to the point.

No Second Chance

This afternoon I sat down to begin reading Mark Hatmaker’s book, No Second Chance: A Reality-Based Guide to Self-Defense. We are studying the text in preparation for his bootcamp we will be attending in May. Interspersed within the text are predator profile blocks that describe actual crimes, un-sanitized and missing euphemisms that you would probably find in a news report. I am amazed and equally disturbed by the twisted imagination that orchestrates these horrific acts, and I can honestly say that try as I might, I could never fully comprehend the mindset from which they are borne. We have often talked on this blog about becoming the predator in an encounter, but Hatmaker argues that as reasonable, caring human beings, it is not a possibility; like it or not, we are the prey. The predators have the advantage in that they know who, how, where as well as when they will strike. They use their intellect to get what they want. He explains that we, as prey, are not powerless, and that we can also use our intellect for preparedness in the worst-case scenario.

Honestly, I feel divided about this analogy. I understand his reasoning, but at the same time, I don’t like to think of myself as prey at all. I like to believe I can be like the predator in determination and ferocity, minus the depravity. I do realize that animals in the wild may be labeled as prey animals, though many survive due to vigilance and cunning. He compares the human predator to other predators and demonstrates that victim selection is based on similar criteria: the easiest and most economical prey. Other species choose the young, the old, the infirm and the inattentive because they know that these tend to cost less in terms of energy expenditure. The human animal also sticks to these parameters most of the time when preying upon other humans. Many psychological studies attest to this.

Hatmaker brings up an interesting point about how we differ from other “prey” animals. The newer part of our brains, or the neo-cortex, that which makes us higher animals, can hinder the primitive part of our brains that controls fight and flight. In a lethal encounter, the mind can be frozen in a state of indecision, trying to reason through the why’s and how’s in an attempt to form comparisons to personal experience where there are none. I know this is the point at which training comes in to mitigate this problem, as he will discuss further in the book. You know, I think we as human beings have an interesting dilemma. As a species we have a tendency to obsess, worry and develop unfounded fears about people and situations in our lives—the False Evidence Appearing Real kind of stuff. The way out of that trap is through reason. Yet, in the case of survival, reason can get in the way of useful, healthy fear that can propel us towards action, i.e. fight or flight. We are so darned complex, we humans!

The last thought I gleaned for the day was this: if ever we find ourselves in the middle of a violent encounter, WE ARE THE FIRST RESPONDERS. Whoever is called to our aid may respond in minutes, and yet may never arrive in time. Sobering thought, and it leaves no wiggle room: we are responsible for our own safety.

Choke from Behind: Krav Defense

I sure hope I never ever get in a situation where I have allowed someone to get close enough to get his hands around my neck. That is certainly a bad day. Nevertheless, here is a nice explanation of the Krav Maga defense against choke from behind, presented by John Whitman of Krav Maga Alliance.

Active Listening and Conflict Management

I have been studying communication, conflict management and resolution, and persuasion/influence.  I cannot remember the source, but I recall an interesting statistic: approximately 98 percent of all encounters in which force is used can be solved through some other means.  Now, I must say I have no idea how one quantifies that kind of thing and creates a statistic, but it still got me thinking more deeply about human conflict.  Conflict is a natural occurrence because we all have a unique lens through which we view the world as well as a unique way of operating within it.  Since “reality” is such a fluid concept based on those parameters, I suppose it would be fair to say it is a wonder we get on as well as we do with one another.  Yet I have observed those individuals who honestly profess that they endure very little conflict in their everyday lives, even though the nature of their life’s work requires them to be in constant contact with people on a weekly, even daily basis.  The question is, are they just lucky?  Do they have a distorted, rosy view of reality as some would claim?

I don’t wish to contradict myself and say that bad things don’t happen to good people.  Rotten people do prey upon good people—even skilled individuals who are doing everything right can have a run-in with slick predators.  We need to have some preparation for the worst case scenario even though the probability is small.  But I have to say that I believe the aforementioned people who claim they experience little or no conflict in their lives, and I don’t believe they live in a fantasy world.  Some folks develop mastery in dealing with others and are able to influence a lot of outcomes based on a specific mindset and certain persuasive skills (i.e. communication skills) that really set the tone for their environment.  It is as if they have this bubble, or sphere of influence that follows them wherever they go.  If you have a conversation with one of these masters and listen to the stories they have to tell, you begin to notice the key ingredient; the most important tool in their toolbox is the skill of listening.

Most of us have a belief that we are good listeners.  I would venture to say that the majority of us have the ability to be so, but probably fall short most days.  Why?  Because real listening requires work.  In a modern world full of shiny and sexy bleeding-edge technological distractions, the work of listening is even harder than it used to be.  Think about it.  Do you notice that if you actually get an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation face-to-face with people you know, you are constantly competing for their attention with incoming calls, email notifications and text messages?  In a fast-paced world characterized by factoids and sound bytes, short-attention spans and tight schedules, we probably don’t think we even have the time to devote to listening.  As James Borg (a leading expert on persuasion) explains, we also tend to confuse hearing with listening.  Hearing is a sensory activity, a physiological function.  Listening, on the other hand, is a cognitive process because it requires interpretation and understanding.  Many of us believe that talking is the most important aspect of communication, and that we are wasting time if we are not flapping our gums and getting our point across (in an effort to get things done!).  Yet, think of how many people have ruffled our feathers and made us downright furious in the course of our lives because we felt like they didn’t ever listen to what we were saying?

The elements of active listening are as follows:

Giving them time to talk: holy smokes, this is monumentally important.

Paraphrasing: recapping what the speaker has said, which lets them know you are trying to understand them.  It also gives them the opportunity to rephrase if you are not receiving the message they are laboring to send.

Asking open-ended questions: gives the speaker an opportunity to elaborate, which gives you more insight into their reasoning.  Avoid using leading questions, if you really want to get down to the meat and potatoes of what’s making them tick.

Watching and understanding body language and other non-verbal communication: over 90 percent of what we say is not with our words, no matter how carefully we choose them.  This is a science all by itself—and a fascinating one, I might add.
Most of us want to be listened to, and have confirmation that we have been understood.  Here are some barriers to listening:

Interrupting—seems like so many are just waiting for us to shut up so they can talk, though often they can’t wait long enough.

Finishing someone’s sentences—want to irritate someone?  Do this over and over.  If you finish their sentences with the wrong ending, they are most likely not going to correct you, but resent the heck out of you anyway.  And, they are left with the feeling that they are not in control of their own ideas.  Sounds like a recipe for contempt.

Talking over people—wow, this is as bad as interrupting.

When people listen to us, and make an effort to understand us, it takes the heat out of our anger.  After a while, we really don’t feel like being mad anymore.  There is nothing magical about it!  I wonder.  Are we inadvertently escalating interpersonal conflicts further than they need to go because of not taking a little extra time to listen to one another?  Don’t get me wrong–people are still responsible for their actions, even if anger turns into violent aggression, but I do wonder how true that statistic about use of force is, and how much could be abated through lending an understanding ear.