Saturday, December 17, 2016

Aikido For Police and Schools

Of my three original instructors, the only one still alive, Bernie Lau is famous for having a crisis experience regarding the efficacy of aikido in real life.  The crisis involved an encounter trying to arrest a drunk lumberjack.  Lau Sensei felt his actions led to two police officers getting injured, plus the lumberjack winning a excessive force lawsuit against the city.  For a young cop that would be a crisis.

Lau Sensei is legendary for his many martial arts exploits, starting with being recruited into aikido off the beach in Hawaii in 1954 by aikido Chief Instructor Tohei Sensei himself.  He was physically formidable, and for someone in his 70s, still is.  When aikido did not work, he switched to his Goju Kai karate and began delivering punishing blows.  That doesn't work on a drunk lumberjack either.

The crisis story is much longer, but the point is aikido is not designed to be an aggressive, offensive art.  As Lau Sensei himself notes.

Here is an article on aikido gone wrong in application:
It appears the use of Aikido began around 2012 at Buechel after the principal hired Ron Boyd, the Richmond martial arts instructor, to train some staff members at the school, according to JCPS records. Boyd has told the CJ that when properly used, the Aikido method shouldn't result in injuries.
In February 2016, JCPS' director of security and investigations, Stan Mullen, suggested that another look at the use of Aikido Control Training in schools may be warranted.
Mullen pointed to the broken wrist at Buechel as well as the head injury and the broken collarbone at Breckinridge Metro as "three significant injuries directly connected to Aikido," saying the injuries may have been due to improper uses of the technique.
At least three Jefferson County Public School students suffered serious injuries in the last three years after staff reported using a method of physical restraint known as Aikido Control Training, a technique the state Department of Education banned last month from all public schools amid concerns about potential injuries.
You can google the aikido instructor behind the program. I've never met him, he seems a typical aikido instructor, so how could aikido application go so wrong?

In my time I have taught in K-12 schools, usually in inner city rough neighborhoods.  Indeed, in some schools we were given hazard pay.  Yes, most states allow kids to stay in K-12 schools until they are 21 (not sure anyone ever takes advantage of that opportunity) and I have met elementary kids bigger and stronger than I am.  High school kids can be Goliaths.  Lesson #1 in K-12 education: never get into a power struggle with a student.  You'll lose.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Yes school districts have their own fully trained and armed cops, and yes, they will come in and handcuff a first grader and take him away, let alone a high school senior.  And I have also taught in Juvie, where the kids are already under arrest.  But when the cops have to be called, it is generally assumed an adult got into a power struggle with the kid, and failed to de-escalate.  (So even if the cops take the kid away, you lost. And the kid knows that too.  He knows he'll be back, you may not.)

Most school districts offer training on how to restrain a child who is about to commit serious property damage (is a student dropping your cell phone in the classroom fish tank serious property damage?) or physically harm another.  But that training is more to protect the school district from a lawsuit than protect the teacher. Most teachers will not intervene in a fight, they just let the students beat each other, mostly because the pugilists' friends end to break it up.  For my part I was able to simple step in between kids and they simply backed off.  Who knows what would happen if one of the kids came after me?

(An interesting lesson from the school self-defense training:  If you are restraining a kid, you are usually safe as long as the target of the kid is out of range.  The kids rage is focussed on his target.  Once the kids attention turns from the target of his rage, to your restraint, then you are in trouble. The kid will now fight you.  You can spot this transference when the kid starts looking at how you have him pinned, when he starts probing how to get away from you.  At this point the advice is ask the kid if it is ok to release him, and do so anyway after say 3 seconds.  This gives the kid power, and shows him respect, which might translate into working with you, instead of fighting.  To me a fascinating tidbit.)

Although many kids want to destroy teachers, a common tactic among teachers is if a kid is getting into it with one teacher, another teacher will walk up and take over as the first teacher simply turns and leaves. The first teacher will get a barrage of insults but if you cannot take that, then you do not belong in a school. What kids do is offer their best effort at all times.  If throwing things and cussing and stealing from you is what they are doing, that is simply their best effort, given their background.  You don't beat up a kid for doing his best.

Teachers do get cold-cocked, as well as administrators.  But given the amount of interaction between civilized teachers and yet-to-be civilized impoverished youth, the ratio of assault to interaction is near nil in schools.

So the application of physical aikido to this setting makes no sense.  Of course tenkan and irimi, on the emotional level, is a constant event.  When a kid makes fun of your receding hairline, or worse, your shoes, he is just probing for a button to push.  If he gets near a button, you simply reply, "you are right to criticize me about my hairline" (tenkan).  Or "what would you recommend I buy when next I have enough money to buy shoes?" (Irimi).

Aikido as a physical event has no place in schools, for the threats do not warrant a martial art response.

As to aikido "not working in real life" the statement is odd. The funny thing is, as a student of Lau Sensei, we learned arrest techniques.  When Lau Sensei built his own dojo in his back yard, his students were mostly cops and military (plus some awesome visiting instructors.)

L to R Wally Jay, James Demile, John Spiers, Bernie Lau, at Lau Sensei's dojo.  Wally Jay taught Bruce Lee, James Demile was one of Bruce Lee's first ten students.
Arrest techniques were a common lesson, although I am no cop. But, having been so specifically and intensely trained,  I've personally made over a dozen arrests in my time,  what we call in the USA "citizen arrests."  It's tricky business as a legal matter, but even trickier as a practical matter.  A kidnapper, a rapist, a second story man?  (Also a chicken $#!+ dine and dasher, and other petty fools who just pissed me off).  The funny thing is, as someone ready, willing and able to mix it up hand to hand, people seem to be pacified once they are placed under arrest.   It's never happened that someone came back swinging at me when I arrested him, so who knows what would happen then?  I can think of maybe four instances of the dozen where I had to pin anyone.

But the fact is I cannot do anything to anyone who does not come at me, because if I am not attacked, aikido won't work.  I need the attacker's energy to fuel an aikido move.  On the other hand, police are obliged to initiate violence to effect an arrest.  You may say that statement is too strong, but today an arrest is an act of violence, with overwhelming force brought to an arrest event.  That is relatively new.  Back in the 1970s when I made arrests, my perpetrators tended to think I was a cop.  OK.  Now they know I am NOT a cop, because I am alone when I make an arrest.  Cops don't do that anymore.  The last two arrestees argued with me, denying my right to arrest them.  In both instances I simply said they were safer with the cops than me, and in those two instances, convincingly. The world has changed.  And again, who knows what would happen if my perpetrator comes up swinging.

Aikido works, if you are not doing police work.  Our trying to stop a kid from doing his very best in school. If "citizen's arrest" is not police work, then what is it?  I call it anarchy, escaping the chaos of failed government by being the government. Schools are chaotic, and they are a great place to practice anarchy.

If you are a martial artists, especially and aikidoist, you ought to be making arrests.

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