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The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming's all that Dreamers do.
Updated: 4 hours 54 min ago

0/-0;+/-Part 1

Sun, 2014-01-05 00:27
I've been wanting to write about this for some time.  Don't know if I can pull it off in a single post.  The note I left myself was, "write about strategy in zero-sum vs non-zero-sum and closed vs open."

Probably have to define those terms.  For my purposes, a zero-sum game is one in which the resources are limited and finite. Closed means that only the particular scenario is involved, there are no ramifications for for the future or impacting relationships with the world.

Monopoly (tm) is a zero-sum game.  There is only so much property, only so much play money and at the end of the game there will be one winner and everyone else is a loser.  Fighting is largely a zero-sum game-- one winner, one loser.  But not truly, because sometimes there are two losers.  Of the seven basic strategies, fighting is the only one that offers the possibility of a catastrophic win.

Momopoly can be either a closed or open game.  So can fighting.  More later.

In a zero-sum game, there is no win-win.  Every advantage for you is a disadvantage to others.  Every time you lose a little ground, your opponent gets stronger and your chances decrease.  When faced with this situation, there are two basic strategies-- you can play to win, or you can play not to lose.  Playing to win is trying to maximize your advantages and hurt the opponent as much as possible.  To increase your abilities and decrease his or hers.  Playing not to lose is the strategy of conserving your resources, not falling for traps, getting the opponent to waste energy and resources.

There's always a balance, of course.  And the more complex the game the more opportunities there are. So a defensive player can see a sweet opening and switch to offense and a generally offensive player can fortify and rest when they find a lull.  Sometimes the strategy is based on personality.  This is very much so in Monopoly, because the opponents start with equal resources.  Ideally, in competition fighting, weight classes and such are an attempt to balance out most things except for personality.

In reality, though, the strategy chosen is almost never chosen based on personality, but on initial resources and stakes.  Those who have more tend to play not to lose. Sometimes, near the end of the Monopoly game, the smartest thing to do is to get sent to jail and just let other people land on your property and pay you. The more skilled fighter frequently waits for the rookie to make a mistake. There is always a chance, no matter your edge in skill or power, that the rookie will get lucky or you will get unlucky.  So the person with the edge tends to keep it.

Conversely, when you are behind the eight-ball, you have less to lose by taking chances.  Desperate people tend to be aggressive (or submissive, in an open system).

Stakes matter a lot.  Except for compulsives, people tend to gamble more when the stakes are low.  It is easier to roll dice for  betting 1 dollar to win 10 than to wager a paycheck at the same odds.  People buy a 2 dollar Powerball ticket with ridiculous odds who would think twice about risking their savings even if the odds were much better.  Even if, objectively, the odds were slightly in their favor.  There is a study on violence comparing chimps and hunter-gatherer humans.  Evidently, both like odds of 5-1 in their favor.  Less than that, they peacefully coexist.  At 5-1 they massacre.  When your own life is on the line, 5-1 odds in your favor seem like the minimum...

That's all zero-sum.  Very little in life is a zero-sum game.  Money isn't.  Wealth isn't. (That's one of the things that bugs me is how few people realize that and how many political arguments are based on the false assumption that economics is zero-sum.  Ahem.) Teaching isn't.  I can give you all of my knowledge and don't lose a bit of it (I'll lose that to age in time.) Not to get all wishy, but love isn't either.  No one needs to love you back.  Personal energy?  The more you give, the more you have.

In a non-zero-sum game, cooperation and synergy take center as strategies... but be careful.  If your opponent thinks it is a zero-sum game, these strategies make you vulnerable. Your attempts to build a trading partner might be used to build an army.

Find and Make

Thu, 2014-01-02 18:19
Welcome to 2014 everybody.
One of those thoughts that's so core it is rarely conscious, and one of the ones that crosses over all aspects of life and survival.  Beginners make things.  Skilled beginners are skilled at making things.  Lazy pros find things.

The most important principle of joint locks is the concept of 'gifts.' If you are strong enough and willing to get punched a lot, you can close on a threat, grab his hand, and try to force the one wristlock you've learned.  If you're strong enough and don't get too concussed, it might even work.

To try to set up the lock-- "If I flick at his eye his hand will come up and I'll just turn my hand, catch his..." is more advanced, but on the same scale. It's dependent on both being more clever than the opponent (which is rarely true under assault-- surprise and adrenaline tend to do wonky things to the tactical side of your brain) and the opponent following the script perfectly. That's why I use opponent instead of threat, because it only tends to work if both people are playing nice and following the same protocols.  In other words, combinations tend to work much better in martial arts studios than in the wild.

And someone who is really good just sees the lock (or strike or takedown) that is already set up in the threat's body and just finishes it.

Grappling is the easiest to see.  Beginners try to get through on muscle and, sometimes, speed or flexibility-- but they gas out. And lose.

Good grapplers are playing chess, knowing that the natural resistance to move X will be defense Y which sets up finish Z.

But the best aren't doing this anymore. They know that there is no way the opponent can move that doesn't have a gift.  Everything their opponent does is an opportunity.  The mind and body are both more relaxed (one of the keys, by the way if you want to run a line).

In striking arts, amateurs try to set up their favorite combinations and moves.  The best have a strike for whatever opening appears.

Everything.  Obviously I'm thinking of the jointlock video, but in the post on independence, Michael said that firecraft was a more important consideration in certain climates than shelter.  I've spent some time there, and occasionally needed a fire badly.  From relatively bitter experience I know you have to get out of the rain and the wind to have any hope of getting a fire started.  Do you make a shelter first? Nope, but you find shelter first.  And it's reflexive enough to anyone who has actually done it, that we don't think about it.

Even driving.  I know some crappy, dangerous, aggressive drivers.  They go for any gap they can, push to get a few car lengths ahead. It does take some skill to shoot for the gaps that they do.  Some skill, not much.  These guys are literally relying on the reflexes and good graces of others to stay alive.  But the best driver I know (a former rally driver) moves through traffic seamlessly.  He makes better gains faster than the aggressive drivers...and no one notices.  He doesn't tailgate to create gaps, he moves into available bubbles that are moving slightly faster that the aggressive drivers don't even see.

The more I get into this the more it seems that everything is about learning to see.

Shout Out

Sun, 2013-12-29 04:14
David Silver at YMAA just sent the preview DVD of the Jointlocks video.  Damn.  I think we knocked it out of the park.

Don't want to get into the video too much.  It's important, I think, because it takes one of the building blocks of martial arts (locks) which are reputed to be difficult and complicated and shows how you can get untrained people improvising under stress in an hour. If the world goes the way I want, there will be viewers, experts in their own specialties, who will go, "Shit! We're teaching X wrong!  I can teach it ten times as fast if I think about it differently!"

 We train to fight ruthlessly and efficiently.  Why not teach with equal efficiency?

But that's not what this post was about. There are some good people in the video, people who I miss.

Bill Giovannucci.  Haven't seen Billy G. in a while.  Missed him on my last two floats through Boston. On the rare occasions when he comments here, I recognize his posts immediately because of the depth. He's smart, though he hides it behind a rough and tumble Boston accent.  He's skilled. You'll see that on the DVD, especially when you realize that his art is about hitting not locking...and  speaking of hitting, he gave me one of the best smashes of my life.  An extraordinary brother, and missed.

Teja Van Wicklen of Devi Protective Offense. A cool kid.  If you look close, during the lock flow drill, she can't help but to throw in some brutal, sneaky strikes.

Chris Thompson who now runs Just Train in Rhode Island.  Skilled, smart, with a vision.  He's one of the next generation of martial artists, the ones who will change everything for the better.  Both a thorough (physical skills) badass and a supremely nice and thoughtful guy.

Mike Migs, who I get together with in Boston when I can.  Clear thinker.  Smooth and effective martial artist.  And we can talk about stuff that would horrify most of the world.  While giggling.

Tia Rummler is one of my 'handlers' in Boston.  My wife trusts her to make sure that I eat real food and get enough sleep and don't pick fights with neighborhoods.  She is also the one who introduced me to storytelling as a way to sharpen your intuition about people.

Alexander Bandazian and Eric Testern were the two I barely knew when we filmed, but both had a great attitude, good skills.  Maybe we'll see each other again and have a narghila at Habibi's.

Dr. Lisa Coaray is one of my other handlers, and the one who arranges Toby's seminars in New England.  Smart, tough, and totally and continuously underestimating how awesome she is... you'll see her on TV soon.  No kidding.

Jeff Burger is the man in Boston.  Good friend, smart as hell, and one of the people I would most hate to have seriously gunning for me.  If you're in the area and you want someone who really knows, look up Jeff.

Erik Kondo offered to let us use his place.  "Not Me! Self Defense" has a headquarters in Massachusetts that includes a danger room, and he let us use it.  Erik (along with Billy G. Jeff Burger, and Jake Steinmann) are part of my East Coast Brain Trust, the people I go to for insights and reality checks.

Anyway, I saw the video and was impressed (and I really, really hate watching instructional videos, so that says a lot) but I was mostly homesick for old friends.

So, old friends, snuggle up by the fire with someone you care about and have a wee dram in my memory. And I'll do the same for you.