Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Robert Humphrey's Warrior Ethics by Tony Notarianni



I was out training with Jack Hoban in New Jersey earlier this month. While there I had the pleasure to train with Tony Notarianni a martial artist out on the East Coast. He wrote a great article in his blog regarding Robert Humphrey's Warrior Ethics. He was kind enough to let me post it here for you to read. Thanks Tony!


The Dual Life Value
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Between February 19 and March 26, 1945 (65 years ago from this article) the world witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of World War II in the pacific. American forces sought to wrestle control of the strategic island of Iwo Jima from Japanese hands. In the midst of this concentrated conflict a marine by the name of Robert L. Humphrey found himself on the front line in charge of a saturated rifle platoon. During this conflict he experienced first hand a collection of universal concepts that set him on a life long journey to understand and where possible resolve conflict in many forms. Perhaps the most significant universal concept he developed during this journey was the Dual Life Value.In summary the Dual Life Value concept is quite simple. All life is of value and should be preserved where possible. This a Dual value because for any individual life is internal and external which is a Dual perspective. Humans as living organisms have a universal standard of preserving both their own lives and the lives of others. Generally by ‘others’ it is often needed to specifically declare ‘all others’.Towards the end of his life Mr Humphrey was asked by an interviewer what his greatest achievement had been in life. He answered with a story from his time on Iwo Jima where he had protected a surrendering Japanese soldier from his own men. They were afraid of a trap and willing to kill the surrendering man in order to avoid taking any mortal chances. By challenging his own men and ordering them to stand down Mr Humphrey was directly responsible for saving the life of this individual.On Iwo Jima of the 22,786 Japanese soldiers stationed there only 216 were captured. The rest were killed including several by their own hand. One of these 216 men owed his life to Mr Humphrey who believed that this single ethical act had prevented him having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder unlike many other veterans of the battle. This was an example of upholding the Dual Life Value. Preserving his life, the lives of his men and even his enemy who at that moment did not need to die. Perhaps symbolic is that the captured man had information that became useful later and had the potential to preserve further lives.For the most part human beings live a life along this universal Dual Life Value whether they are aware of it or not. Unfortunately due to various differences in relative values conflict may occur in any place at any time. This is most likely to occur when individuals involved are clouded from the universal values they already have with other more tangible relative values. It is also important to remember that due to certain conditions there may be individuals who for whatever reason are missing half or all of the Dual Life Value from their nature. This essay considers the ways that a warrior (be they professional or civilian) may be taught to deal with conflict, uphold ethical values and also survive.
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Reacting to conflict - The Soft Form
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Some instructors of combative methods may avoid the emotional complexity of combat or merely address it as an after thought to be dealt with in the heat of the moment. The focus of the training may be upon the internal aspects of training, the perfection of form and the upholding of moral standards and behavior. In the martial arts this is often called the soft or internal form. It could equally be said of any scenario where students are being trained for combat without addressing the sensations of adrenalin, emotion and rapidly changing scenarios. Students of these teachers may be non-aggressive in their attitude but run the risk of not reacting at all when faced with someone who, unlike the student, is not capable of demonstrating self control, is not open to reasoning and has a very different set of values.Being unprepared may cause the student to freeze completely and be unable to defend themselves or others. Shock will cause the mind to numb, the senses to dull and the resulting performance will be significantly poor. Once this helpless feeling is experienced the student may completely alter their mindset during training to become much harder and focused.
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Reacting to conflict - The Hard Form
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Quite often more experienced instructors of combatives tell their students that in a 'real fight' (when we are in serious risk of physical harm or death) we had better be prepared to do 'anything' that is necessary to 'defend ourselves'. This kind of instructor may even have actual experience of life and death situations and truly believe that throwing out the moral handbook in a time of crisis was what saved them and is also the best advice for their students.In a sense this is an accurate observation. Firstly because if you are unprepared for a confrontation and truly wish to survive then deciding about the ethical implications of each action will certainly slow you down and possibly get you killed, it makes sense to temporarily forget about the long term impact of the unfolding events in order to preserve your life at the 'current moment'. Secondly because most people are uncomfortable with and struggle to come to terms with the idea of hurting others it is often necessary to instill in them a 'killer instinct' which is triggered to take over once a threshold of threat level has been reached. Once pushed to a certain point the individual can let go of their inhibitions completely and react freely without thought.One major method that has often worked throughout history is to 'enable' the hard form by demonizing the enemy. By making the enemy sub-human or 'lesser' the warriors of a given society are able to react strongly against anyone not of their own kin without having to feel the same level of conscience they would otherwise.Another method that also intertwines with religion and culture is the concept of revenge. In the same way as a judge and jury may sentence a criminal to death, a warrior may take it upon himself to by-pass the entire process in order to achieve the same end result. In this case instead of de-humanizing the enemy as being intrinsically lesser the moral issue is overcome by placing a label of 'deserving' upon the enemy.
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Hard and Soft Approaches versus the Dual Life Value
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The problem with both approaches is that the response of the student in a real life combat situation may be too much or too little. Too much means an excessive use of force that can result in the defender causing unnecessary harm or escalation of the situation and then living with consequences be they legal, psychological or physical. Too little means the defender does not effectively deal with the situation allowing themselves and anyone else who may need protection to be harmed. Should they be lucky enough to survive then long term physical and psychological damage may await them.Most importantly of all neither solution addresses the Dual Life Value directly. That is the ethic of not only protecting the self, but also others, all others, including the attacker if possible.
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The Dual Live Value in historical conflict
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This problem of how to deal with combat and apply a correct response while upholding a Dual Life Value is probably as old as mankind, even if mankind had no name for these values, and it seems strange that for all of our technological advances we have not solved this particular problem globally. However it is quite likely that it has been understood many times and perhaps even solved in various forms but that this knowledge has been lost or simply overlooked.
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Warrior Codes
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There used to be many societies where warriors actually were a part of the social structure and formed distinct segments of society. They certainly had their own transferred understanding of coping with combat, where experienced warriors took leadership of the less experienced not only to protect them physically but also to stop them from making mistakes in the heat of battle. In a roman phalanx the more experienced soldiers were around the back of the newer recruits, not just to stop them from running away, but to actually encourage them real-time during combat. There is also the hereditary aspect of parent to child education in a military family. Children born of experienced military men would be given lessons in the mistakes and not just the successes of previous generations. During periods of history where warfare was ongoing for several generations those who survived must have had considerable understanding of conflict and ethics.With respect to valuable lessons learned it is unlikely this would be the concern of the general leadership and so we could assume that a great deal of this knowledge was not written down nor was it in the interests of the military to discuss such things openly. In fact some things are almost impossible to explain, especially for those trained in combat and not literature, and so warrior codes although they have existed in many cases are now often no more than romantic literary concepts which have lost the original ethical relevance.
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Treatises on WarSun Tzu wrote that:12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seekingto determine the military conditions, let them be madethe basis of a comparison, in this wise:--13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbuedwith the Moral law?(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heavenand Earth?(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?(5) Which army is stronger?(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?(7) In which army is there the greater constancyboth in reward and punishment?Perhaps Sun Tzu was not an individual as some scholars argue but a refined collective knowledge by generals of the period. This would actually strengthen the case that millennia ago the complexity of war was fully understood by many individuals. The very idea that 'Moral law' was highest on his list, the understanding of the far reaching implications of combat and rejection of simple minded objectives. Other famous authors such as Carl von Clausewitz have re-iterated similar understandings of morals only centuries ago which highlights even further a constant quality to the nature of war. It certainly hints at an understanding of the Dual Life Value where what is best for all is best in conflict. However as great and inspirational these works are, the objective to deconstruct them and create a practical and effective method for teaching ethical values is probably more than a lifetime’s work
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The Sanshin
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One interpretation of the Sanshin in the Bujinkan martial art is the combination of Ethics, Tactics and Techniques as an operational concept. It seems daunting to believe that in one instance an individual could uphold the dual life value, employ safe tactics and where appropriate utilize forceful technique. There are exercises however that not only show that this very perfect balance is possible, but even more surprisingly it can be demonstrated that in the same scenario abandoning any one of these concepts can actually make the whole effort less effective. It seems obvious that bad technique may result in failure, or that bad tactics may result in failure, but bad ethics? Drills and exercises show that abandoning ethics is directly capable of impacting tactics and the effectiveness of technique. In summary then there is still a practical approach to teaching realistic combative training while maintaining a Dual Life Value.
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Foundation using technique
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In martial art dojos and military training operations we often see the individuals learn technique first, then tactics and finally an attempt to cap it off with ethical understanding. This approach at first seems logical. Techniques are small and isolated body movements, easy to teach to several persons at one time and easy to categorise into the form of a curriculum. Once basic movements have been learned the student may be instructed in various ways to combine the forms depending on various circumstances and this may be called tactics. Finally once the student has demonstrated an understanding of various tactics they will require a regulation of everything they have learned according to the moral standards of the time.On second look there are a few problems with this method.First, in the modern era combat often involves firearms, where the technique can be simplified down to pointing a weapon and pulling a trigger. Lining up students and asking them to fire a weapon repeatedly or execute a technique repeatedly may be a good exercise but does not rapidly advance their education.Second, once the technique is learned you now have several trained individuals with little tactics and little ethical training. This means that should they enter combat they will be a danger to themselves and a danger to others. Even when they become versed in tactics they will still be a danger to themselves and others if they don't have the ethical training.Thirdly, once the student has learned technique and become familiar with tactics they may have already established internally a view on ethics based on what seemed to work and what didn't in a training environment. At this point it may be very consuming to penetrate the ethical values back into the training which has already developed a momentum of its own.In short this process actually develops a dangerous group of individuals during early stages of training, and in later stages stifles all the creative tactics that were created by dropping an ethical restraint upon the students.
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Foundation using the dual life valueAnother teaching method is ethics first, then tactics and finally technique. It seems unlikely that this has been done by many civilizations in the past due to the lack of preparedness and focus on other endeavors. Perhaps in tribal initiation ceremonies a young child coming of age must prove they are willing to endure some hardship for the whole group (not just the other fighters but the entire collective) before being accepted as a warrior. However in the average modern society most humans have the benefit of living in a generally stable and for the most time comfortable and peaceful world.There are several reasons why founding the training on the Dual Life Value can be effective. First of all the dual life value is not a very complex one. All life is worth preserving if possible, yourself and others. By understanding this very clear ethic one can more simply ensure that any tactics do not violate this ethic. Next once deciding upon the tactics one may choose to employ a technique, in fact the tactic can be quite simply to establish a situation whereby the technique is only required should the situation require it. The technique itself may be very simple, in fact strategically the technique should be simple to reduce the danger of it being executed poorly.
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Ethics in action
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Here is an example of a situation. A group of enemy combatants have occupied a building and are firing at the local forces on the ground, they also have several human hostages on the premises. There are of course various techniques available. Maybe it is possible to call in an air strike, or heavy ground fire could be used against the building and also an attempt could be made to approach and enter the building to prevent any combatants from continuing their course of action.Bombing the building would immediately kill both innocent civilians and enemies. It does not uphold the life value. However here is an idea, if possible threaten the combatants that you will destroy the building. You may even destroy a nearby empty building as a show of force. This is already an ethic, to give the enemy an opportunity to surrender. Compare this kind of act with a terrorist act such as plane bombing. Terror organizations will argue that they are upholding some morality and resort to clandestine operations due to necessity. However there is one important point that is often missed by many commentators. Most terrorists do not provide an opportunity for their victims to bargain for their lives. Their motivation is to kill, sometimes themselves and others, the exact opposite of the dual-life value. So in this given situation offering a chance to avoid conflict is desired if the situation allows, to show you have force and give the enemy a chance to capitulate. Also the way that the enemy reacts will also provide much information. Perhaps the enemy will not surrender but allow some children or women to leave. Perhaps they do not seem to care about the hostages at all. This information may be vital in coming stages.If the combatants are firm in their resolve then the tactics will be ever so important if an attempt is made to access the building and rescue the hostages. The tactics will require methods for remaining as safe as possible, protecting the civilians and forcing co-operation from the enemy. This means that the skill level of those that carry out this operation must be extremely high. In a sense the only way to be able to uphold the Dual Life Value on a regular basis is to work towards having the highest available embodiment of the Sanshin in every significant action.



Post written by Tony Notarianni.
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