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The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming's all that Dreamers do.
Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Poker

Thu, 2017-11-23 07:17
This is a placeholder for something I want to think about in more depth later. Had a really good couple of days. BK and KK were in town visiting. BK and I brainstormed some variations on ConCom that will probably make a book. Synergistically, started reading Jane Austen: Game Theorist  yesterday.

In poker, you can play the cards, the opponent, or the table. Same in life. Or fighting. Or whatever.

Playing the cards. There are four suits and thirteen of each type of card in a deck. If you have four cards that make a straight, the odds of getting one of the cards that will end it is slightly higher than 2/13. Trying to fill an inside straight? 1/13. Need one card for your flush? Instinct says it should be a 1/4 chance of drawing the right card, but you already have 4 of the 13 cards in your suit, so 9/52.

The life or fighting equivalent is playing from your own skillset. To go into a situation, counting solely on what you know, ignoring other information.

Playing the opponent. In poker this is reading tells, getting to know the other players so well that you can read how strong their hands are. You can read what they desire and what they fear. You can read the draw (a draw of 2 cars in 5-card draw usually indicates they are holding three of a kind, for example).

The fighting equivalent. From Maija Soderholm I got exposed to the late Sonny Umpad's  exhortation to first learn to read your enemy, then learn to write him. This one is deep. It ranges from simply feinting to gather information or to draw a response; to getting so far inside a threat's head that you are effectively gas lighting the threat. You can control not only what they perceive, but how they interpret their own perception and whether they can trust their own perception.

Same in life. If you understand people and can read them, you can use those insights to manipulate them. You can control the game. A lot of people glitch on this. "Manipulate" has negative connotations in current usage. But really, manipulation is just acting with skill. I'd rather have good people be skillful than not.

Playing the table. Too many people who play cards just play their own. In stud, you can calculate how the cards showing change your odds. Need a jack? 1/13 chance... but if two jacks are showing, it's now 1/26. If all of the fives and tens are showing, you'll never fill any straight. (note: in this post I'm not talking about Hold 'em. Talking about what my dad would call "real poker"-- draw and stud.)

To me, in fighting, playing the tables working all the auxiliary stuff-- environmental fighting, accessing social possibilities. The asymmetrical battle of bringing in the law or HR when it suits you.

Tying it back to game theory. To be successful you have to know yourself. Your mind, your resources (including skills) your goals and your parameters. You also need enough empathy to get into your opponent's head and discern the same things from the other point of view. To approach expertise in the subject, you have to understand how all of the seemingly extraneous stuff interrelates-- the social dynamics, environment, physical and communication skills... the whole bit.

Sheepdogs

Thu, 2017-11-02 16:57
Grossman popularized the sheepdog metaphor. The idea is that there are sheep-- generally nice and productive but not what one would call hard core. And there are wolves, and wolves are the bad guys and prey on the helpless little sheep. And there are sheepdogs, who have many of a wolf's traits but use those abilities to oppose the wolves and protect the sheep.

Grossman popularized it, but he was quoting a Korea war vet. My dad was a vet from that era and he used it too, so it must have been in the air back then. But it has jack shit to do with the way most people use it.

The part of it that was true, and what my dad meant by it is that as a soldier, I had more in common with an enemy soldier that I do with the civilians we are protecting. Yes, we. Saddam's Republican Guard or the Wehrmacht or the 82nd Airborne... people were defending their homes, their people, their values. Sometimes expeditionary forces, sometimes home guard... but especially in the age of conscripts, a drafted US soldier in a third-world country he's never heard of and a conscripted kid from that third-world country actually have a lot in common. And more in common with each other than they ever will with citizens or, especially, their own generals and their own politicians.

More broadly, coal miners in Virginia and coal miners in China will have more in common with each other than they will with their own bosses or their own governments.

That, to my mind, was what the sheepdog metaphor was trying to convey.

But it's become something else. A badge people put on to feel superior. So let's walk out the modern interpretation.

Number one, there ain't no sheep. Humans are amazing predators. Tough, adaptable, capable of learning at a whole new level. It takes a metric shit-ton of brainwashing to convince children that they are supposed to be weak and that passivity is a virtue. That social conditioning has happened, and it has been successful, but it is not natural. If you want to look down your nose at anyone and think they are weak, that's your arrogance, not truth. If they find the right incentive and throw off their imaginary leashes, not only will the meekest person you know give you a fight, your will prevent you from seeing it coming.

And here's the big one (hat tip to Terry Trahan.) Sheepdogs aren't good guys. They don't work for the sheep. They work for the shepherd. They don't keep the sheep safe from the wolves because it is the right thing to do. They keep the sheep safe from the wolves so the shepherd can butcher them or shear them on a precise schedule for maximum profit.

Still feel like a hero, Mr. Sheepdog?

Two things in my mind, going opposite directions. You are not sheep. You are mighty. Your ancestors pretty much conquered the world at half your size and half your brain size and nowhere close to your access to information. With sticks and chipped rocks and opposable thumbs and communication and teamwork, humans spread. Humans became the apex predators on this planet. Almost all of the species we used to dread are now protected as endangered, a testament to both human power and human compassion. We, as humans, are anything but sheep.

Yet we are being treated like sheep. And we tolerate it and in many cases beg for more. Look at your paycheck. How much are you being fleeced for? How much of your productivity does the shepherd take? Did you consent? Did you negotiate?

Evil corporations? Oil company profit on a gallon of gas is roughly three cents. Taxes (state and federal, in my area) are 48 cents. Production, purification, delivery for three cents... regulation and control for 48. Which is the fleecing?

I know this is going to get some knickers in a twist. Do the math. Who provides the things you appreciate? Who pays for your labor? And who controls your behavior and siphons off from your labor? Who are the shepherds that are sheering you? Who has (and to what extent do you give them) the power to butcher you?

The Coaching Chisel

Mon, 2017-10-30 16:26
Kasey likes to say that when you apply the chisel of reality to chip away the inefficiencies, what you end up with will look pretty similar. Or words to that effect. He says it better.

Here's the deal. Coaching is the process of making people better. Doesn't matter what you're coaching. But we (most people, including me) have this subconscious default that better=more. So in this stupid subconscious conspiracy, the student wants to learn more-- cool techniques and nifty strategies, and we want to give them more-- power generation systems that stack so that the effects compound, for instance.

And sometimes, especially for beginners, that's okay.

But if fighting is an art, it's stone sculpture. You have to chip off everything that is not what you want. That probably made no sense. Let's try again.

Coaching the one-step (lots of one-step at VioDy, so it's fresh in my mind) there are four (at least) levels of coaching. (It was six by the time I got to the end of the article.)

The first level is no coaching at all. Fact is, fighting and surviving are natural and only extremely brainwashed people need to be taught how to hurt a human body. So we deliberately set up the first few rounds so that the students have fun and play with a part of their nature they've been told they don't have. We still have to coach for safety stuff, but playing without implanting skills first demystifies the process a lot. Students aren't here (wherever hear is) to learn to fight. They're here to learn to fight (and see and apply judgement and articulate decisions and...) better.

Second level is asking questions. Giving the students a leg up on self-coaching. You are the only person inhabiting your body (I hope) and you are the only person at the center of your own action. No outside coach can possibly see or feel as much as you do. You must become your own best coach. Asking questions, especially about training artifacts that come up, gives students permission to use their own input and to step into a place that's scary for most beginners: "Damn, some of the things I've been taught are wrong. Worse, I knew they were wrong and went along because an authority figure told me to do it that way? What else do I have to test for myself? Everything?" Yeah, pretty much everything.

Third level are the "skill builds." Take the student out of the game, work on a specific skill, like leverage and leverage points, and put them back in the game with the new knowledge. Let them experiment with the new* tool or perspective in coordination with the skills they already have and their natural movements.
*And some of these skills can seem new, but very few are truly new. We use leverage all the time, every day-- how you hold a steak knife, a hammer or even a pencil are all expressions of leverage.

Fourth level, and where most of us as coaches spend most of our effort late in a seminar: Blindspots.
If you can honestly see what is in front of you, most of the time the most efficient solution becomes obvious. But all training sets up templates for how one sees, and things outside the template become invisible. Boxers and kick boxers don't see knee pops. They can physically see the same thing a silat player sees-- "My knee is very close to the threat's knee." But it's not on there mental list of tools so they don't see the affordances in what they observe.

Aside-- This is a huge weakness with technique-based training. When you get stuck (say in a pin or a lock) technique-based training requires you to have a specific escape for that specific hold. If the hold is new to you, you're screwed. First time I encountered knee-on-belly, I froze trying to run through all the escapes I knew. I didn't notice that his base was a narrow line that I could pop him off balance. I didn't notice that there was a big gap I could just slide out of. I was trying to remember instead of see, and memory is not an optimal brain function for fighting.

So the essence of fourth-level coaching, at least for this drill is simply, "Stop. Go back one move. Did you see...?"

Fifth level is the chisel. It's weeding out any unnecessary movements. A lot of it can be summed up in "closest weapon to closest target" but there more there. Why does almost everyone instinctively pull back before a strike? What little power you gain is far offset by the time lost and the warning given. When going for an o-soto-gari outside leg sweep, how often would it be more efficient just to drive your knee through his rather than go all the way around for the sweep?

Efficiency, in every physical endeavor, is about getting to the end result with the least (effort, time, motion) possible. The best runner moves less than the second best to get to the same distance. The best fighters finish thing quicker because they waste less motion.

Oh, and there's a sixth level of coaching. Monitoring the student's emotional state while they one-step or spar. With a little practice you can see a lot. Memories. Hesitations. Internal monologue. Successes they have been punished for. This sixth level can be valuable for integrating physicality, thought and emotion.