01 November 2014

How MCS was created Part II- Harold and Sensei


Sensei
Within a few days, the states attorney's office ruled that the shooting was a justifiable homicide.  The shooting occurred early on Monday morning and we were all back to work that Thursday night.  Some were not ready, but nobody said anything.

At the time of the shooting, I had been in law enforcement for 9 years.  During that time, I had been through two police academies and a SWAT school.  In the department I was known as someone who took firearms, training, and officer survival very seriously.  The best way I can explain the conclusion I came to after the shooting was that the training I received to prepare me for a real shooting was like driving through a residential neighborhood in preparation for driving NASCAR.  I also realized that it would be hard to get people to understand that before they needed to.  My "aha" moment was when I came to the conclusion that if the firearms training I had received was not relevant and realistic, there was a good chance that this was true for all things related to dealing with interpersonal violence.

The first thing I did was realize that trying to explain the need to back  up, look at the reality of interpersonal violence, and base training on those findings was something that few police, much less anyone else was going to be interested in.  The bottom line is that people don't care about something until it is to late.

As long as I can remember I have always been fixated on making complex things simple so that they could be better understood and retained.  In other words, get rid of the unnecessary to maximize efficiency and create a "way" of doing the things that we do all the time.

When I was a kid, there was really no opportunity for me to pursue martial arts. Not only was there no dojos around, but my parents worked swing shift.  They were concerned with providing for me more that making sure I was entertained.

By March of 2000, two months after the shooting, I was out on patrol and assigned to Special Operations.  This gave me a more flexible schedule.  I decided to check out a Ju Jitsu dojo that was just outside my jurisdiction.  The building was long, narrow, and kind of run down but something drew me to it.  Just like I had always liked to lift weights in industrial looking gyms instead of mirror covered aerobic halls.

One afternoon I walked in and met the man who would become my mentor for the next seven years,  Sensei.  Sensei was a crusty old retired Army NCO who lived on a steady diet of black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes.  He was a small man at 5'7 160 lbs.  He held several belts including a 9th degree black belt in Yo Shin (Willow Tree) Ju Jitsu.

When I was a kid, I had talked my Grandmother into ordering me a few books on Ju Jitsu, but because of my size I had no one to try any of the moves on.  When I was in the Army, I briefly studied Ju Jitsu with my team leader at a place in Baltimore before the Sensei moved out of state.  Except for the fact that I had been making a living of putting my hands on people for the past decade or so, I was an open slate and eager to learn.

At the same time my daughter who was then 5 started taking Judo too, and would eventually become a two time Maryland Judo champion.  Judo and Sensei's personal money is what kept the doors open.  Sensei primarily taught Ju Jitsu, and he had a female black belt that handled most of the Judo kids.  See Sensei as I would find out along the way was a Special Forces medic, 18 Delta, who had been in the first Gulf War and suffered from Gulf War Syndrome.  My best description of him is as a crotchety old man who was most often in a sour mood.  But that did not matter to me because what he taught was based on not only his martial background but also based on his amazing understanding of human anatomy.  At no time that I was training with him did I ever see him look at a book for anything, it was all in his head.  Adult students did not last long because of his personality, toughness of classes, and his unwillingness to hand out belts.  I actually liked this though because it meant the people who did show up were dedicated.

With about two weeks of me beginning training, Harold showed up, a man who
Harold
with the exception of Sensei taught me the most about fighting and learning to take a beating.  Harold was in his late 40's and and at 6'5 200 lbs, tall and lanky, looked like he could not chew bubblegum and walk at the same time.  The truth was quite opposite.  Harold, a third generation Marine had made his living driving a truck, but now owned his own computer business.  Basically he was a computer savant.  He was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Corps, had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and had even tried out for American Gladiators.  He made it but they said he was too old.  He ran, lifted weights, and trained everyday like someone was trying to kill him.

Over the next 7 years there were very long periods of time that Harold and I were the only Ju Jitsu students.  Not only did that mean that our training was accelerated, but brutal.  Sometimes during the hour long classes we would practice chokes, throws, and joint locks for dozens of reps.  Pressure points did not work on Harold, nor do I think he felt pain. That was not the case for me.  I think Sensei took sick pleasure watching men our size beat the shit out of each other.

Often we did Kumite or free fighting.  The first time I fought Harold changed the way I would fight for the rest of my life.  Institutionally I tried to keep away from Harold's hands and feet, looking for a place to shoot for a take down to make use of my superior grappling skills.  That plan failed where he snapped kicked me in the chest.  I flew off the mat and into a glass display case smashing the glass.  My thick Judo Gi protected my back.  When I got myself back together, we got back to business.  From that point forward, I decided that if I was forced to be in contact with someone I would always be within arms distance and move to my left, their right.  The reason was that Harold, like 93% of people, was right handed and right footed.  By moving to their right, I crowded their best weapons and made it harder for them to set up on me.  This is now known in MCS as Constant Tactical Positioning.

Eventually, due to manpower issues, I found myself back in patrol.  I joined the SWAT team, and attended several specialized schools, around 40 or so.  In those days the economy was good and the city decided that every employee should pick a goal and pursue it.  Always being the smart ass I said I wanted to become a SME (Subject Matter Expert) in the use of edged weapons so I could create an edged weapon survival program for law enforcement.  Much to my disbelief, they actually approved it and sent me to all kinds of courses.  More on that in Part III - Knife Fighting Bullshit.

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