The "look"

SKB

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In one of the other groups on here a fella was talking about how you can just look at some people and tell they study MA or are a LEO or are military. This is so true! Which got me to thinking about something I have noticed during my training in this art.

Most of us do not "look" like we train. OK what does that mean? My best example of this would be Fall Festival. Here you have all these people who are skilled martial artist yet to look at them nobody would know. The first time I went to festival I made a joke about what would happen if a group of trouble makers came into the bar we were at. They would have no idea who was around them and it would be funny in a wierd way to see what would happen.

I really like training in an art where folks do not walk around with their chest out all day trying to see who is tougher then who. Been involved in those arts and it gets old real fast. I like the fact we as a group do not look or act like your typical "karate guy"! I think the macho image of some groups gets in the way of people wanting to train. I know people who want to learn self defense but are turned off by what they think they will go through and they assume all MAs are the typical tough guy clubs where you break boards with you head all day.

By the way, last festival a fella did start a problem one night. It is really funny if you think about. The person he tried to embarress just let the idiot say his piece and walk off. Later I talked to the guy who was making problems. Not only was he not the sharpest tool in the shed, he was a plain old fashion lier. I feel bad for this idiot if he walked into a room full of tough guy martial artist and insulted people.

Kind of a rambling thought here but I hope someone gets what I am saying.
 

Kacey

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I understand completely. For years, when people hear about my involvement in TKD, and that I am a black belt, one of most frequent comments is "Really? You don't look like a black belt!"

As nearly as I can tell, I'm either supposed to be short, wiry, and Asian, or tall and muscular - but either way, I'm supposed to be male.
 

exile

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What you're talking about, SKB, is the lifelong reenactment of grade 4 playground behavior that somepeople engage in. 20s, 30s, 40s....60s,70s, doesn't matter: aggression-display behavior to intimidate potentially dangerous others and intimidate people who are vulnerable.

People who do that sort of thing are damaged in some really fundamental way, and it's a bit troubling how in our culture we allow certain people to never grow up, as long as they find niches which make them useful. Those that don't find those niches often wind up in prison, but they're just the extreme outliers—there are plenty of people who are playground bullies for much of their waking lives but never quite cross the line into imprisonable behavior.

The real problem for the likes of us is that MAs are viewed by many such folks, apparently, as a social activity in which this sort of hostile, arrested behavior can be expressed without fear of massive disapproval....
 

tshadowchaser

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Unfortunately I believe we see this strutting in most martial arts and all walks of life. The “I am badder than you” attitude is seen in many who study the arts.

Now the walk and “air” about one who studies is a different thing. Yes I have seen people walk down the street and known they studied by something in the way they moved but I do not know exactly what it was.

If you are not seeing these things in any that attended the festival you went to it most have been a phenomenal event
 

exile

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Unfortunately I believe we see this strutting in most martial arts and all walks of life. The “I am badder than you” attitude is seen in many who study the arts.

Now the walk and “air” about one who studies is a different thing. Yes I have seen people walk down the street and known they studied by something in the way they moved but I do not know exactly what it was.

The bolded part here is connected to the stuff that Tellner was commenting on in his `Affect' thread: the fact that different arts, and different styles of a given art, have a particular look, a particular signature manner, which is separate from technical content per se. That's a matter of style in the artistic sense, a kind of almost æsthetic flair... the following may seem far-fetched but isn't really: friends of mine who are professors of mathematics have told me that there are certain celebrated mathematicians whose students all have a kind of `house style' in the way they construct their proofs. You read what they've written, these people say, and you can almost guess that they did their dissertations with so-and-so at such-and-such university, because a well-known mathematician teaches there and s/he's famous, as a researcher, for insisting that a `proper' presentation of a proof proceed in just that fashion. In other words, if a very influential and effective teacher makes a fetish of doing things in a certain way, you can bet that that person's students will doing things that same way, or maybe even more so :wink1:...

This is definitely a very different thing from the individual mannerisms of hostility, aggressiveness, potential violence and so on that thugs and bullies who have been, unfortunately, exposed to the MAs, learn how to project.
 
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SKB

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I did not mean everyone at festival did not have a look to them. I meant most folks there do not "look" like MAist.

There was not a lot of chest out, looking to prove their manhood fellas walking around. Almost (just so I don't use words like all) everyone there is mellow and there is no ego issues, at least that I know of.

Festival is a realy good time and hard to exsplain if you have not be there. Also the folks I train with are really good to go. Having trained in other arts, I do find it phenomenal to train with folks who are not what most people think of when you say "So and So does martial arts."

If you know what to look for you can tell who the people are you do not want to get on their bad side. Yet they do not go around carrying themselves in a manner which projects their abilities. Even if you seen Mr & Mrs. Hayes walking down the street you would not know they had any training.

I think groups which promote 'sport' fighting and the ego trip thing are missing something about MAs and life in general. Some of this you can spot if you go to a tournament or event some where.
 

ToShinDoKa

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I really have to agree with SKB on this one. It's amazing how you can be fooled if you're not paying attention. At this year's past Mountain Quest (advertising this seminar, yet again) there were multiple yudansha, and yet, unless you knew them, you'd never know.

I met Mary Casey at the seminar, and besides her 'intense' stare, I thought she was one of the most subtle and gentle people there. Of course, during one of the drills where we were paired up, I couldn't help realize how much I was 'not' in control when I was her uke, and she was applying the waza. Later on during the black belt testing, she was one of the 4 or 5 yudansha to 'charge' onto the testing floor, and attack the aspiring black belt testers. Her speed was amazing, and I couldn't help but empathize with what I believed the examinees were thinking when having her charge at you with a wooden knife...To Shin Do at its best :)

There were many more experiences like this, and they've taught me to NOT underestimate ANYONE at ANYTIME!
 

Dave Leverich

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One thing I found, my wife says that I move differently than most people (and my friends who are life-long MAists also).

As far as why some 'look' like fighters, LEO's, or martial artists... I think much of is bearing (not sticking the chest out). Simply how they hold themselves, eye contact, how they move. I notice everyone when I'm out and about, make eye contact, kind of take an account of who's where etc.

I regularly will run into off-duty police and it's an instant spot, they usually nod back although I don't know if it's due to my build or simply a gut thing. I am one of the good guys, but I'm not in LE at all (though, as a MAist I've worked with LEO's all my life).

Military is similar, but I don't see anywhere near the amount of situational awareness from them. Makes sense, they KNOW when it's go time, but for a LEO it could be anytime. That's not to say that the military guys on leave or retired don't have the same awareness, simply that it's not so readily apparent (or perhaps not so pointed heh).

The fighter is easy to spot as training will sculpt them.

The Hobbyist MAist, invisible. There's no one body type or shape, or anything readily apparent that pops out. The lifer types will show some, but it's also manerisms rather than build generally.

Anyway, that's my take on it (no offense to anyone, especially our boys/girls in uniform, without you we wouldn't be here).
 

thardey

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I don't thing "The Look" is necessarily a "make my day" kind of an attitude. If I see someone with that look, I usually write them off as either beginners who are still getting used to their gi, or as posers who are trying to overcompensate.

When I first started in the MA, a couple of my instructors were in the Armed forces, and one had seen some heavy action. Even though at the time I was using a cane, and was fairly crippled, they asked me what my experience was. I told them I had played football, and had done some boxing, then asked them how they knew. They said that they could tell that I had "body awareness", and confidence to use it, even though I walked like an old man. They said that someday I would learn to see it.

Then one night, after I got my BB, I was agreed to hang out with my sister at the local watering-hole. Now, I hate going to bars, it makes me paranoid and jumpy, but I went as a favor. Of course, she picked a table smack in the middle of the room, and left me the seat with my back mostly to the door. I was on wired overtime.

Then these two guys came in, probably in their late 40's or early 50's, and I just knew they were dangerous. I don't know how, but I just knew it. But I also knew that they were here to relax -- I.E. in my situation they were one of the good guys. They took the table in my blind spot, and started to smile and joke with each other, and I was finally able to relax, knowing that there wouldn't be a problem behind me.

They weren't puffed up, they weren't out to prove anything, but they just moved naturally - efficient and cool, and in control. They moved like the experience MA'ers I had been around. To me, that's "The Look".
 

bydand

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I know what you mean SKB. Last time I was at a seminar I was watching John Poliquin, Brett Varnum and a couple others talking and kidding around a bit and thought how little they looked like the stereotypical MA's. The night before the seminar started, 14 or 15 of us got together and went out to eat and tip a few back while catching up. Then on Saturday night the same bunch went out to a teppanyaki resturant for one of the guys birthdays. It was a surprise for him and he actually got a bit choked up we all remembered, somebody at another table kind of got a chuckle out of it and everybody at our table just ignored him. I was thinking, if the guy only knew the talent sitting around our table I bet he would have been a bit more careful.
 

ToShinDoKa

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But have you guys FOUND yourselves USING the 'look?

In my world, and throughout my entire day in the general public, it's fun for me to see exactly what type of personality I can portray to people without speaking. I'm 6'2" tall, and weigh in at about 260lbs, and I love weight lifting, (so that may have a bearing) but at this same time, I can seem to attract some people non-verbally and scare others.

I mostly try it in the parking lots (like a your local shopping super center) and see either how many people I can get to stare at me without doing or saying anything outrageous, and how many people I can get to ignore me by blending in. The thing is, when I am in the parking lot at night time I have to admit, the lack of lighting tends to get unnerving, and so I make a game of practicing subtle awareness as well as strategic walking path to make sure I'm most protected. Part of this is, when I feel most vulnerable, USING THE LOOK.

I don't frown, but I make eye contact in a non-chalant manner, optically saying, "You pose no threat, and I know your every move." I must say, I do ever enjoy the results and the feeling that comes across. Though, as not to be rude, when I do meet prolonged eye contact with another, I'll nod my head in greeting and continue on. It seems, at that point, the person and I have already agreed not they or I am a threat, and we can safely go on about our business. Don't know, but sometimes I REALLY like the look...it seems as a preemptive measure to disuade those who would prey on you otherwise.
 

Omar B

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I'm also 6'2 and carry myself with good posture and try to be aware of everything without looking like I'm checking things out. I find that like someone else said, cops notice, my uncle who's a marine notices. I guess after many years of training and dicipline you can't help but have a certain level of outward manifestation.

I don't walk around with my chest out and all that, truth be told I'm pretty lanky and it probebly makes me look a lot less threatening than I really am. Like my first day in High School here in NY, two guys tried to steal my watch because I looked like an easy mark it seemed. I kept my cool even when they cornered me and did not react till one of them touched my pocket. It's a sence of security thing, after not putting up any resistance thus far they thought they got away with it, turns out they only got away with a broken nose and a broken wrist.

So no, I don't look like a martial artist, heck, I hardly look in shape.
 

Bodhisattva

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But have you guys FOUND yourselves USING the 'look?

In my world, and throughout my entire day in the general public, it's fun for me to see exactly what type of personality I can portray to people without speaking. I'm 6'2" tall, and weigh in at about 260lbs, and I love weight lifting, (so that may have a bearing) but at this same time, I can seem to attract some people non-verbally and scare others.

.

Wow. A 260 pound weight lifter is able to scare some people and he thinks it is some Ninja Fire Demon Look.

No dude, you are big. Quit scaring people. We typically refer to that as "bullying" in our society.
 

The Last Legionary

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No Mr Thicky, it's called intimidation, and it's a valid self defense skill. Bullying is a more active type of activity, one that would probably cost you your lunch money and result in you receiving a swirly, again.
 

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Whitebelt

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I've had an experience with The Look without even having the look. It has proved to be a double edged sword.
One guy was threatening me one day, same hight as me but one hundred times the agression. His friend whispers in his ear a little while in after he's noticed i'm not scared by him and he's became more physical; "oh, mate, don't do that, this kid does kungfu or something". He backed off soon after, quite deflated, without me even having to seem threatening (I'm quite incapable of that). He and his friend inflicted The Look on him. Not me.
This doesnt happen all the time though. Being big or formidable can make you a target for those who feel like they have something to prove. Iv'e had an encounter with a boy with what I beleive is commonly called the Napoleon complex.

I suppose the effectivity of this tactic depends upon your confidence, their confidence and their determination so if you are going to use it, judge well.
 

Kreth

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Being big or formidable can make you a target for those who feel like they have something to prove. Iv'e had an encounter with a boy with what I beleive is commonly called the Napoleon complex.
Those little guys get feisty when you take a handful of shirt, hold them at arms-length and let them flail... :lol:
 

tellner

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There are several "looks", and they have a number of parts.

Some is physical makeup. Wrestlers of whatever sort move well from their centers and tend to have a sort of solidity that is hard to mistake. It starts with the legs and the muscular development of parts of the torso. That and the total absence of a neck :) An eskrimador's forearms, a boxer's shoulders and set of scars on the outsides of the forearms all send different messages.

Part of it is how people carry themselves and the type of psychological impression they try - often unconsciously - to project. The "Kajukenbo swagger" is pretty characteristic. The way that a cop takes up psychological space and projects an air of command tells you that she is a police officer. A lot of koryu practitioners have that Bushi look about them that says "I have the biggest pair in this room. You got a problem with that?"; Anyone who has seen a lot of trouble has the Battle Computer running at least as a background process. Every time he walks in a room you can see it do a quick assessment of everyone individually and the whole scene as a gestalt.

A big component is how people recognize and respond to the low grade status and minor threat displays that human beings and all social animals engage in much of the time. We like things to be All Sorted Out, so there's a fair bit of testing to see who sits where. This isn't a good thing or a bad thing. It's an inescapable part of being social animals. Experiences and training modify our response to the game. Sometimes it's a conscious manipulation of what is normally unconscious or a reaction that isn't exactly what we expect.

Three of the most dangerous people I know nicely illustrate the process. One of them has that Master Sergeant thing going. That's partly because he was a Master Sergeant with all that implies. HE knows the game and has been trained to take charge of it and the people playing. The second has been in more trouble and conflict than most of us - even the military combat veterans - can imagine. If you're not a threat, you're not a threat. This sometimes leads to trouble because he ignores things that aren't important until they are important at which point people who messed with him wonder why he just went from laid-back to all-out in an instant. The third has an unnerving way of focusing his entire attention just for a moment on anyone who looks at him just a little too long or intently.

Another piece is what a person intends and the degree to which it shows. Someone who is sizing you up as a crime victim will tend to carry himself much differently than a friend. I'd hazard that a martial artist is more likely than your average citizen to look at people and ask himself things like "Could I take that person?", "What would I do if a fight broke out right now?", "Is that guy jockeying with me?" or "Is he a martial artist?" Unless the person is extremely good at concealing intention some of it will leak out. A person who is used to looking at things that way will pick up on it.

So what's the "look" that you're talking about here? It's a combination of all of them. Each of us has some idea of what a martial artist is like. So we look at people and see if they have that combination of "tells". If the totality is inside the range they get classified as "martial artist", "brawler", "egotistical jerk", "cop", "criminal" or something else. The confusion lies in the fact that a lot of people who do martial arts or who believe they are martial artists fall outside the observer's pigeonholes.
 

ToShinDoKa

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Wow. A 260 pound weight lifter is able to scare some people and he thinks it is some Ninja Fire Demon Look.

No dude, you are big. Quit scaring people. We typically refer to that as "bullying" in our society.

LOL!

A bully? LOL!

But seriously, while people may notice my size, it's usually the disposition I portray that changes their response. Most of the time, I can't help but smile. I laugh at the silly things people do when they think no one's looking (all in good clean fun) and it causes me to look like I'm always happy. I also speak politely and nod when passing by people who meet me in eye contact for longer than a second or so. In the south, it's only polite to do so. It also tends to confirm that you're not just staring at people, though sometimes I wonder what they're doing and where they're going, even what they've been through...so I suppose I actually am staring.

My employment usually requires me to dress semi-formal, so I don't really look like a common street thug, nor do I dress that way off of work (assuming dress portrays a person's personality in some small way). Bullying, though...I don't think that's quite me. One person whom I met in Walmart told me they look forward to my 'million dollar' smile, whenever they see me. Now, flattery aside, I take that as a sign that I don't seem much like a bully to the people I pass by. But who knows what people think?
 
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