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The thoughts and viewpoints on this blog are my own and represent my skeptical, critical-thinking approach to martial arts, combative training, film, the field of cognitive science, and random subjects.
Updated: 1 hour 46 min ago

COMPLEX, DYNAMIC AND CHAOTIC

Sat, 2014-12-13 03:54
COMPLEX, DYNAMIC AND CHAOTIC“Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.”Henry Adams

“I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me.”Bob Dylan
 
Visit some dojos and you might come away believing that combat is a disciplined, controlled and orderly activity.  Students move in unison, cooperate almost completely with one another, and they champion the concept that martial arts is all about self-discovery and self-development.  Watch a self-defense demonstration and you might see sequences of movements that, like dominoes arranged in a pattern, fall into place perfectly.

I have a much different view.  I have witnessed real violence, and I have on a few occasions witnessed violence up close and personal.  It is most certainly not controlled or orderly.  It is messy, and nasty, and fast, and ugly.

Complex and Dynamic



I have often said that fighting is chaotic, and it logically follows that we should prepare to deal with this chaos by introducing more chaotic elements into our training.

But in the world of science, and particularly in the field of mathematics, the term chaos has a very specific and precise definition.  I think it is important to understand this and other concepts so that we may better design our system of personal protection.

First, let's talk about the concept of a system.  In science and mathematics--the language of science--a system is some concrete or abstract area or field of study.  

We as martial artists and personal protection specialists focus our attention on the very concrete area of physical aggression, and the movements one takes to evade, neutralize and counterattack aggressive actions.  Thus we could say that we study, analyze and try to better understand the system of violent aggressive behavior, and we work towards developing a comprehensive system of personal protection tactics that allows us to survive a violent encounter.

We study observable behaviors, actions and responses, and we also trouble-shoot variables that might occur as these violent interactions take place.

At any point in time during a violent interaction, that is at a specific state, there are certain conditions and variables at play.  I have often referred to what I call the six phases of a physical attack, and these may be valuable in illustrating this concept:  (1)  Preparation; (2) Approach; (3) Delivery; (4) Execution; (5) Follow Thru; and (6) Recovery.  

A stop-action photograph for example could help us detect slightly different actions that subtly distinguish one phase from another.  Take a boxer's jab for example.  A jab normally begins from a boxer's on guard position (the preparation), then it requires a step (the approach), a forward movement of the hand and arm (the delivery), the full extension and snap of the fist (the execution and the follow thru), and the quick return to an on guard position (the recovery).  Obviously in real-time the steps or phases are seamless, and they flow together in continuous action.

One could look closely at any number of physical actions--from a golf swing, to a tennis forehand, to a double leg take-down in wrestling--and observe most if not all of these same six phases in action.

 If we are to study a system of hostile aggression in order to develop a system of self defense, a thorough understanding of the concept of a system is key.  

A simple system has a limited number of parts or steps, and there a few variables at play.  For example one could argue that throwing a frisbee or spinning a hula hoop--let's call these simple systems--are relatively simple actions with few variables and a small number of steps.  

A system of dealing with violent aggressive behavior however is most definitely not in this category.  It is, in contrast, a complex and dynamic system that is made up of a large number of simple steps, parts or actions with specific functional roles and which interact with each other to accomplish some greater functionality.

A complex system has built-in redundancy so that it can survive the removal of one or a small number of parts.  But it is, at the same time, efficient so that adding more and more parts does not necessarily add value or improve the functionality of the system.  

A complex system is generally represented as being impacted by time (phase space).  A chess game for example has a beginning or opening phase, a middle phase, and an end game.  Different tactics are at play, and different strategies may be utilized, at each of the various phases.  This may be referred to as a trajectory--the way the system unfolds or evolves over time.  In fact it is this fact of change-over-time that defines a system as dynamic.

The Value of Prediction



Let's take a quick side trip, shall we?  

I previously mentioned chess not by accident.  Chess, at first glance, may seem like a simple game with a specific number of pieces with a limited number of rules, but it is truly complex.  As Andrew Latham says "chess is actually very much a game of prediction..."   although a human player can memorize openings and endgame patterns, ultimately chess is not about determining the perfect moves so much as predicting which moves will lead to better positions.  This is the fundamental difference between tactics and strategy - tactics involve rote calculation with perfect information, while strategy is almost entirely predictive, making guesses based on foundational principles, human experience, and intuition as to which plans will yield the most promising positions, that is, those positions that have the best chance of yielding a win."  


Uber statistician Nate Silver, whose approach to collecting and analyzing data, what is known as 'probabilistic thinking,' says in his book The Signal and the Noise--Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don't, that chess is a perfect analogy about complex, dynamic systems and predictive analysis.

At the beginning of a chess game, he says, there are 20 potential movements with white's opening, and 20 potential movements with black's responses.  This means there are 4,000 possible sequences after the first turn.  After the second turn there are 71,852 possible sequences, and after the third an amazing 9,132,484 possibilities.  If that blows your mind, consider this:  The number of possibilities in an entire game of chess, says Diego Rasskin-Gutman, is greater than the number of atoms in the universe.

Let that sink in for a moment.

If we compare the game of chess to a physical altercation and personal protection encounter, as many people have done, just imagine the number of possibilities in that there are significantly more options than a chess game.  Trying to make an accurate prediction of an outcome would be almost impossible since there is simply so much uncertainty.


Nate Silver says that there is an on-going tension between risk and uncertainty when trying to flawlessly predict outcomes.  In such areas as the long-range forecasting of weather patterns, trying to figure out the stock market, and making accurate and actionable earthquake predictions, there is always lots and lots and lots of data--some of which, says Silver, is nothing but noise.

A Today excerpt of Silver's book tells us that "stone-age strengths have become information-age weaknesses.  Human beings do not have very many natural defenses.  We are not all that fast, and we are not all that strong.  We do not have claws or fangs or body armor.  We cannot spit venom.  We cannot camouflage ourselves.  And we cannot fly.  Instead, we survive by means of our wits.  Our minds are quick.  We are wired to detect patterns and respond to opportunities and threats without much hesitation." 

What all this means is that we're very good at generalizing--"finding patterns in random noise."  Maybe that's why we see the face of Christ in a grilled cheese sandwich or why we see a structure in the shape of a human face in pictures of Mars.  


Silver says that the signal is the truth, the nugget of important information that we're looking for, but all the rest, the noise, is what distracts us from the signal.


Back to Chaos


A dynamic system has specific initial conditions.  That chess board we imagined for example begins with the pieces set up in a very specific order.  A dynamic system will change over time, and we can better predict the outcome, or generate a solution, if we clearly understand this initial state and the rules of the game.  But if we feed "solutions back into the rule as a new initial condition" (Rickles, Hawe and Shiell), we generate chaos.  

Chaotic systems are non-linear in that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  Small changes, or interventions during the process, can have large outcomes (or vice versa) down the road.  

Another feature of any system is the presence (or absence)  of predictability.  A deterministic system or process is one in which the trajectories of the past and the future can be concluded from its present state.  If we drop the plate that we purchased at the crafts fair we can generally predict that it will break into dozens of pieces.  We also know that before it was a plate it was made up of raw materials in the potter's hands.  We can accurately predict both trajectories.

A semi-deterministic system on the other hand is one in which the future trajectory can be predicted, but not the past.  However in an indeterministic system one cannot even predict the future trajectory, because the change or evolution is random.

Cannon balls, clocks and the movement of the planets in our solar system are said to be deterministic systems.  "We ought to regard the present state of the universe," said Laplace, "as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that is to follow."  There is a sense of inevitability in a deterministic system.  Put on a DVD of "Enter The Dragon", for example, and the movie plays out the same way each time.

I was recently reading about Joe De Sena, creator of the Spartan obstacle-course races and a direct competitor of the Tough Mudder events.  Because of his philosophy that "we all need adversity to grow," racers are subject to his whims.  He just might arbitrarily extend a race as competitors get close to the finish line.  How indeterministic is that!     

"Chaos is the generation of complicated...seemingly random behaviour from the iteration of a simple rule.  This complicatedness is not complex in the sense of complex systems science, but rather it is chaotic in a very precise mathematical sense.  Complexity is the generation of rich, collective dynamical behaviour from simple interactions between large numbers of subunits.  Chaotic systems are not necessarily complex, and complex systems are not necessarily chaotic," (Rickles, Hawe and Shiell).

Both complex and chaotic systems are sensitive to initial conditions; however, they follow different trajectories over time, thus impacting one's ability to make predictions.

So What Does All This Mean?




Predictability and probability are important factors in a system of personal protection.  There are elements of chaos in the system of physical aggression that we study, and equally in any system we develop to defend against potential violence, and trying to predict what an attacker may do may be impossible.  Working towards determining and planning for each step of the action seems like an exercise in futility (just remember what Diego Rasskin-Gutman said about the number of possibilities in an entire game of chess being greater than the number of atoms in the universe).

It is this which seems out of place in the nice, orderly martial arts academies where carefully rehearsed, thoroughly choreographed routines of sequential movements are practiced and memorized by rote.


(1); (2); (3)

 

HIP MOE TIED

Mon, 2014-11-24 15:26
HIP MOE TIEDMay I Make a Suggestion?
"Because there's no explaining what your imagination
Can make you see and feel
Seems like a dream
They got me hypnotized
" Fleetwood Mac

"You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it"
Styx



The Power of the Mind 


The British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell once went to his dentist with a toothache.  The dentist examined his mouth and asked, "Where does it hurt?"  

Russell answered, "In my mind, of course."  

He was right.  Pain is in the mind, and the means to neutralize pain may also reside somewhere in the mind.   

I used to know a guy who was in dental school.  He said that the school offered cut-rate prices to patients who were willing to come in and let the novice students practice their skills.  He told me about one particular patient, an older gentleman, who came in several times over the course of a few weeks because he needed a lot of work.  Surprisingly this patient always refused Novocaine or laughing gas.  Instead the gentleman would take a few minutes before any procedure and close his eyes and take several long, deep breaths.  Then, using nothing but the power of his mind, he didn't seem to feel pain from the dentist's drill.

When you think about it, maybe that's not all that unique.  According to psychologist Nichola Spanos, "Before the 19th century, all major surgery was done without anesthetics. Physicians sometimes found they could reduce pain with simple suggestions such as, 'you'll feel no pain'." 

Let that sink in a minute.  

All dental work, all surgery, the suturing of open wounds, the setting of broken bones, the treating of torn muscles and strained joints--all of this was done with just the power of suggestion to block mind-searing pain.

So the mind is extremely powerful and is open to suggestions.  

In times of dread and fear we can convince ourselves to be filled with boldness, and confidence and courage.  Using nothing but the power of our minds we can reduce or eliminate other negative sensations.  If you listen to those who claim to be able to help others with this incredible power you might come to believe that they can cure phobias and break lifelong habits instantly.  Perhaps they can even help you to stop a panic attack.  

But what exactly IS this power?  

Hypnosis


"There are (several) major theories of what hypnosis is, from role playing to dissociation to an altered state," said Jeffrey Zeig, director of the Milton H. Erickson Society in Phoenix.

Some hypnotists believe that they can invoke an actual trance state where a person's subconscious mind--the mind behind the mind--is open to suggestions.  Others recognize that we probably all enter into this state without even realizing it.  We zone out while watching TV, or while reading a novel, or when working on a hobby or when we are daydreaming.  We pull into our garage at the end of the day, and we really can't remember the details of the drive home.  

There are a few hypnotists who claim to be able to help you to reprogram your brain, as if your mind runs on computer software.  They claim in that in just a few sessions using only deep relaxation and spoken suggestion they can help you to lose weight, stop smoking, get a better night's sleep, stay sharp and confident at your next job interview, or ace your university exams,

According to the How Things Work website, hypnosis is "pretty much the same thing as trance theory. When you absolutely convince somebody that you've brought about a change in their subconscious, they register this information as a fact. Like any fact, this information will take root in the subconscious mind. So, even if the hypnotic state is nothing more than a figment of the subject's imagination, hypnotic suggestions can still reform their deeply held beliefs. The end result is the same!"  

There may be a link between self-hypnosis and mindfulness.  Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the champions of using mindfulness training to help with stress, pain, and other health problems defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experiences moment by moment.”

But Does it Work?



I remember one night many years ago when I attended a stage hypnotist performance at a comedy club.  The show started out with people from the audience volunteering to get on stage and were then placed into a 'trance.'  At the hypnotist's command they started clucking like chickens or barking like dogs.  They became convinced that their wallet was on fire and that their tongues were too thick for their mouths.  Some remained glued to their seats, totally unable to move.  


After the show I saw some of the people who had been hypnotized.  They were talking and laughing, and I heard one of them say, "Man, that was a lot of fun."  Turns out the people weren't even hypnotized--no trance, no alternative consciousness, it was all just a big act.

Some researchers contend that hypnosis is merely grownups playing make believe or role-playing.   

Here's what researchers have discovered:


If you have an active imagination, if you are fantasy-prone, and if you believe that hypnosis works, odds are you'll be more responsive to hypnosis.


However, if you think it's all bunk, and that hypnosis is a bunch of rubbish, you probably can't be hypnotized.

Being hypnotized, no matter what you may have seen in the movies, does not mean you are under the absolute control of the hypnotist.  

You won't turn into a zombie or relinquish self-control such that you will commit something against your own personal morals.

Lost memories are not restored by hypnosis, and memory is not enhanced by any measurable degree.

Those in a hypnotic trance are however quite suggestible, and thoughts and memories can be modified and even created by hypnosis.  This is called confabulation.  Fantasies constructed during hypnosis or times of creativity and concentration can end up feeling like real memories.

Hypnosis, according to the Skeptic's Dictionary, requires four important ingredients:  Concentration, relaxation, suggestion, and expectation.  If a client really wants to quit smoking, and if he is highly motivated for hypnosis to work, he may find that the cravings for nicotine have disappeared.  

But for every success story there are probably dozens of not so successful treatment. And for every sincere clinical hypnotist there are probably dozens who are in the pseudo-science or medical-quackery field.  

Some interesting things may be explained by the confabulation experienced in hypnosis or suggestion or an active imagination.  Alien abduction, for instance, or remembering a past life may feel very real to the person who has vivid memories of these experiences.  

A suggestible client may come to believe that an 'energy treatment', one in which the client's 'energy field' is manipulated by creative hand waving or musical vibration, or special lighting, or touches to specific parts of the body, may have healed injury or disease. 

With hypnosis a seminar attendee may believe that he has been knocked out or rendered unconscious by a chi master with nothing but a few light shots to select pressure points, or better yet, with no physical contact at all.

Conclusion

Most researchers agree that hypnosis can be used as an effective part of treatment for anxiety or phobias or panic attacks.  Hypnosis may be used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy and may be used to supplement other treatments for certain addictions such as food addiction.

Because world-class athletes use deep concentration, mental imagery, mental rehearsal, and visualization as part of their training regimens, a form of self-hypnosis, many sports psychologists have confidence that the mind and the body respond to this type of adjunct training. 

Creating "memories" of success, of performance with poise, confidence, and freedom from fear, may in fact be of tremendous benefit to anyone looking for an edge in competition.


Perhaps William James said it best, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”



http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/extrasensory-perceptions/hypnosis1.htm

http://www.uncommon-knowledge.co.uk/articles/uncommon-hypnosis/skepticism.html
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/03/31/science/hypnosis-still-provokes-some-skeptics.html
http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/SkepticsHypnosis87.htm
http://www.skepdic.com/hypnosis.html

IX-NAY ON THE I-CHAY PART 3--BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

Sat, 2014-11-22 20:41
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN IX-NAY on the I-CHAY PART 3
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."Godfather 3
"Whoopi-ty-aye-yay
I go my way
Back in the saddle again"
Gene Autry


I thought I was done.  Didn't think I had any more gas in the tank.  But some recent articles I read really fired up the old engine.  So here I am, tired, but saddled up, and ready for the next rodeo.

What got the old motor cranked up was some articles on martial arts healing.  Now, I know what you're gonna say..."Give it a rest, Goin.  Live and let live.  Who cares what people believe?  It's harmless.  Who gives a rat's ass?"

But, here's what bothers me.  These people don't just write about it.  They don't just post information as a public service.  They're not altruistic, with a passion to help others.  Okay, some of them are, but the vast majority charge money, real money, to give out their guarded information.  Secrets that have been handed down for generations.

And here's just a few examples of what I read:

     "This is a practical course where you learn a special version of The Eight Brocades, an ancient Chi cultivation technique that help heal the body, prevent illness and boost your immune system while activating special pressure points."

     "Through spiritual intentions and connecting one’s spirit to divinity, we learn to let go in the practices and achieve meditative awareness as well as deep profound healing."

     "Through intensive research and personal experimentation, I finally realized that anybody could become a healer so long as he or she is willing to be one."

     "As far as I'm concerned, you don't have to wait until you have mastered a sophisticated or esoteric healing technique before you start aleviating other peoples afflictions. Some people scoff at the idea but prayer is a powerful healing tool. Pray for those who are sick whether you knew them or not. I don't want to look at prayer from a mechanical point of view, but science is beginning to realize its potency. It is now known by neuropysiologists that art, prayer and healing all emanate from the same source in the body, they are associated with identical brainwave patterns, mind-body changes and are connected in feeling and meaning."  

     "Martial arts training involves a process of strengthening the Yi, Qi, and Li: Yi is the mind, will, and spirit; Qi is the vital energy; Li is the inner force.  Yi, Qi, and Li are like the Three Treasures: Jing is Li, Qi is itself, and Shen is Yi. Human beings are made of these three substances (Jing, Qi, and Shen), which in English may be called as Essence, Vital Energy, and Spirit respectively. These Three Treasures are viewed in Daoism as the highest form of medicine for human beings."

     "I just wanted to let you know that many of the flowers and trees in our yards have been blooming beautifuly. And even plants I have had for YEARS, two of them have flowered! They never have had any flowers. I didn’t know they could flower!! My family as well as myself, are totally blown away. It took me a few days to finally realise it was you. Your Distant Energy Healing is having an amazing effect on the plants!" 

     "I have been enjoying the feeling of euphoria after each session. I initially signed up for your month long healing because one of my dachshunds injured his back slipping on ice. He couldn’t walk without pain. He didn’t want to eat and was sleeping all day. after the first session I noticed a marked change. My dog was walking a little. By the second session he was able to walk while on a potty break and his eating picked up. He also wanted to roll on his back outside. By the third session he was so mellow during the session that he was limp. The next day he was downright giddy! He was running and barking. His eating is back to normal and he is getting underfoot again. Thank you for helping bring my dog back! I can’t wait to see what happens with 2 sessions in one week."

     "Because I’ve been practicing for years, my energy field is larger than normal. It radiates from my energy center (called dantian) and spreads out in all directions. And when you step inside my energy field, your own energy begins to vibrate like mine.  This phenomenon is called entrainment, which is when smaller frequencies synchronize with a larger one (like when smaller grandfather clocks fall into rhythm with the biggest clock in the room). Modern studies have shown that entrainment happens not only with brainwaves, but also the electromagnetic frequencies that emanate from the human heart." 

     "All you have to do for your body to keep it is a disease free state until you die naturally, is to give it the right food, that which we were meant to eat." 
  
Okay, I get it, some of it anyway.  Meditation and deep breathing can reduce stress and calm high blood pressure.  Massage is relaxing and can help alleviate pain and make sore muscles and joints feel loose.  A session with an 'energy worker' in a tranquil setting with New Age music and candles and aromatherapy can help minimize worry and anxiety and make you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the madness of modern living.  And if long-term health problems stem from nervousness, too much worry, intense anxiety, high blood pressure, and relentless tension, then a session of Tai Chi, or some Yoga or Qigong can help you feel younger, refreshed and renewed.  

I'm not arguing any of that. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water, regular exercise, and a sensible diet can help you lose weight and feel more energetic.   I actually like Tai Chi and some of the Chinese Qigong exercises.  Senior citizens like me can benefit from this type of training.  

So, what's my issue?  That's NOT healing.  Not really.


You can show me a hundred articles about the alleged research of all of these esoteric practices, and they'll each confirm their ability to make people feel better and more relaxed.  You can find me lots of articles that talk about the placebo effect that you'll use to justify your so called mind-body practices.

But that's not healing.  It's just not.

Unless your mind power, and your natural energy manipulations, and your fancy hand-waving motions, and your deep breathing, and your incense, and your gongs and your drums, and your odd-sounding metaphysical terminology, and your once-lost esoteric practices passed down for centuries can accurately and consistently cure the mumps or measles, set a bone, git rid of strep throat, stop an ear ache, arrest infection, reverse pneumonia, help with an abscessed tooth or long-term liver damage, remove the pain from a sprained ankle, and stop the spread of infectious diseases, and a million other things that modern medicine can do, it's just not healing.

And quit acting like chi is some spiritual or supernatural life force. 

Biology researcher Steven Salzberg, at the University of Maryland at College Park, calls complementary and alternative medicine (often referred to as CAM) “merely cleverly marketed, dangerous quackery.”  He says that clinics who 'integrate' these practices with evidence-based modern medicine that is built upon scientific principles simply “throw together a little homeopathy, a little meditation, a little voodoo, and then they add in a little accepted medicine and call it integrative medicine, so there’s less criticism.”

I agree with Salzberg who says that there is really only “one type of medicine, and that’s medicine whose treatments have been proven to work.”  CAM has not been proven to work, says Salzberg, but proponents of the practice will never admit it because “they are making too much money on it.” 

The Skeptic's Dictionary says that "When examined under controlled conditions, the seemingly paranormal or supernatural feats of masters of chi turn out to be quite ordinary feats of magic, deception, or natural powers."

Sure, you're gonna want to share with me an anecdote about your own or a friend's or family member's miraculous healing from this or that chi-based CAM treatment.  

But isn't that a little like the sharpshooter who shoots the side of a barn and then afterwards draws a bull's eye around the bullet holes? 

You're gonna feel obliged to tell me about 'big-pharma' and corrupt medical practices, and the horrors of malpractice.  You're gonna want me to read about Western medicine's mind-boggling profit margins.  And you know what?  I can't argue with any of that.  It makes me sick what has become of our medical industry.    

But, c'mon.  Putting your faith in bogus practices.  Pretending that the fantasies of chi and shaman magic are real is simply embarrassing.

If even after all of this you remain convinced that there is a Star Wars type energy that permeates us all, and that it can be manipulated by masters with special training, then go for it.  Knock yourself out.  Flush your money down the toilet.

But please keep the martial arts out it.  Don't pretend that martial arts is about something more than personal protection.  There might be secondary, indirect benefits of the training.  But that's not the point.  Martial arts IS about fighting whether you want to believe it or not.  The new agey folks have tried to infiltrate the martial arts and turn them into something they're not.  

Please, PLEASE, do me a favor, I beg of you...IX-NAY on the I-CHAY.