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Monday, December 10, 2012

Kobayashi Maru

I'm not sure why this popped back into my head recently (possibly the recently released Star Trek trailer), but it comes up enough in self-defense discussions that I wanted to get it out on paper.

Story Time

A few years ago I was doing a PDR seminar for...well, a bunch of jerks. It was one of those seminars where about half to three quarters of the way through it became pretty clear that neither party liked the other one very much. I thought they were a bunch of overly macho tough guys, and they...well, they didn't like me. I don't know why. I'm a likeable guy.


At one point in the seminar, they started asking about weapons protection. The PDR counter-knife/gun stuff. It's not something I'd planned to address in the seminar, and honestly, it's not material I share out often. But they kept asking, and I finally agreed to do a quick overview of at least some of our concepts.

Which then lead into questions, and eventually, the most asinine discussion of the day.

Other Guy: Ok, but what if the guy is like, standing over here (moves about five feet away, points a gun at me).

Me: Well, obviously what I just showed you wouldn't work at that range. I'd have to find a way to get closer to you, or have you move closer...

OG: But what if you can't? Like, if the guy is on a porch, and he's pointing the gun at you, and he says that if you move, he'll shoot you.

Me: Ok. I don't move. What does he want? Sooner or later, someone is going to have to move. We can't just stand here for eternity.

This actually went on for a bit longer before even the other seminar attendees had to point out to this guy that he was being an idiot. And he was, but he was being a pretty common type of idiot. He was trying to set up a Kobayashi Maru.

For the non-geeks among you (you're lying, you're all geeks); in the Star Trek canon, the Kobayashi Maru is (in simple terms), a no-win scenario. It's administered as a test to Starfleet officers to see how they respond to a situation where they cannot win. Captain Kirk famously wins by cheating...he reprograms the computer so that he can win. When asked why, he responds that he doesn't believe in the no-win scenario.

One version of that scene.

Now, I will not lie...I'm a geek. Love Star Trek, ever since I was a teenager. And yeah, it influenced me. This is one of the places it did, rather strongly.

I don't believe in no-win scenarios either.

More accurately...I don't believe in training for them.

Can you create a no-win scenario? Sure. A sniper has a fifty-caliber rifle aimed at your head, you have no cover, and you don't know he's there.

Hey look, I created a no-win scenario. Look at me.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it sometimes ends up getting extended into scenarios that are more plausible. Multiple assailants, for instance. Or armed assailants.  I wish I had money for every time I've read or heard that "well, if the guy has a knife or gun, you're dead" or "no one can defeat multiple assailants, it's completely impossible."

That kind of thinking just seems useless to me.

In the PDR/SPEAR System, we teach that there are three things that bad guys want.

1. Property
2. Body
3. Life

Now, if an armed assailant wants my property (wallet, car, TV, whatever...) then, yeah, those are things that might not be worth risking my life for. But body? LIFE?

I mean, seriously, if nothing else...what if someone is armed and intends to kill you?

What is the value of saying "well, there's nothing I can do."? If we are really looking at a scenario where if you do nothing, you DIE, then why not fight? You're going to die anyway. The only thing you've got left to decide is how you die. You can go down fighting, or go down...well, not fighting.

I'll take fighting, personally.

Please don't misunderstand this post. I'm not trivializing the dangers of multiple assailants, weapons, or anything else. Nor am I saying that you should always fight. The decision to fight is one that must be made by you, and you alone.

What I am saying is that I see no value in trying to construct or analyze scenarios that you can't win. None. First off all, I don't believe they occur that often. And if they do...

There's a wonderful line from Joss Whedon that sums it up pretty perfectly

If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do.

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