Not my Circus, not my Monkey:
Have you been in one of my Krav Maga classes when I’ve talked about the Monkey Dance? I was first introduced to this phrase on a Rory Miller Seminar where we discussed the ritualised combat between males of the same species. This agonistic (competitive) behaviour is seen in many animal species because resources such as food, shelter and mates are often limited.
Agonistic behavior often looks violent, but it is not always the case. If a true fight were to break out between the animals, then both parties run a high risk of getting hurt. What is then displayed can be a ‘fight’, but in an exaggerated, ritualized way as in elks locking antlers, cats posturing and humans boxing or wrestling. Much of this social violence is based on instinct and can follow a routine. Rory Miller has produced a great summary below of some of the specific steps that you can witness in the human dominance game:
- A hard, aggressive stare.
- A verbal challenge, e.g., “What you lookin’ at?”
- An approach, often with the signs of increased adrenaline: gross motor activity of arm swinging or chest bobbing, a change in colour, usually with the skin flushing.
- As the two square-off, there may be more verbal exchanges and then one will make contact. It will usually be a two-handed push on the chest or an index finger to the chest. If it is an index finger to the nose it will go immediately to step No. 5. If there is no face contact, this step can be repeated many times until one of the dancers throws
- A big, looping over-hand punch.
This is a simplified description by Rory Miller and shows only one side of the ritual. It’s very easy to get sucked in to this game and unless you are given a way to save face, it can be especially hard and embarrassing (especially for young men) to not be bought into the escalating situation.
Many of us have witnessed the monkey dance happening to other people, especially where a few drinks are involved and there are social groups at play. However, realising that you’re being caught up in the monkey dance is not always as obvious. You may well be a few steps into the routine before that Eureka moment occurs. Rory Miller has some advice here, “…apologise (a simple ‘sorry’ no explanation) put your hands up, palms out (both shows peaceful intent and makes a classic ‘fence’ which is a very good thing when things go bad)”. You need to back away and quickly leave, moving to a safer place.
There you have it, a very succinct description of the monkey dance. The next time that you are in one of our Preston or Blackpool Krav Maga classes and we drill these scenarios, be ready to practise walking away as an outcome as well as the array of Krav Maga techniques. Remember that if you find yourself in the monkey dance and you take the dance to a violent conclusion, “…well he pushed me first” may not be a great legal defence.