It’s not what you think…
When I say ‘bend over and take it’ I’m envisaging the difference between form and function in combative posture.
In many of my application pictures there is a noticeable difference between my posture in paired work and that in the solo form of the kata.
As karateka gain experience they learn that stances naturally adjust according to need, and as a result they may become longer, higher or deeper as circumstances dictate. Different applications or variables will cause shifts between what we recognise as stances, so while a form might illustrate a movement in a front stance or a cat stance, circumstances may dictate something more akin to a rooted stance, a back stance or a straddle stance.
Eagle eyed readers of my blog or my books might have noticed that invariably, when I am in tactile contact with a training partner, or following through, I never hold my back at a right angle to the ground. This is not accidental ‘bad posture’ nor is it the result of an injury. Often this is the case when the level of tactile contact shown in the photo is minimal, because at the start of the movement a fair degree of weight was actively driving against me.
No matter how good your stance or footwork is, having a straight back while resisting physical force from another person is biomechanically unsound.
The greater the level of force you are resisting, the more necessary it is to brace appropriately to take the load properly without placing undue stress in the small of the back, or compromising your balance, and in general the greater the angle of back (and depth of stance and thus angle of shin) required.
There is a difference between lifting an object and exerting or resisting force along other planes of movement.
You may be able to push a car with a straight back once you have got it moving, but to initiate the push the optimum position is to lean forward. You would not see a rugby scrum lock together bolt upright.
So, if you are engaging in force on force close quarter karate against resisting training partners I offer this small piece of advice:
bend over and take it.
Realistically, this feels like a new area. Most teaching methods are traditional, in the sense that they were handed down instead of purpose built. Most are centered around a school paradigm, with a high status instructor and low status students. And most assume that a problem is a problem, that in some way getting skilled at force is like getting skilled at math or engineering or medicine. But there aren't a lot of fields where you have to make quick, accurate decisions with partial information under an adrenaline dump. And in those fields, the most important part of instruction doesn't necessarily come in the class or at the academy-- things are set up very carefully to ensure that the first real encounters don't happen alone. Officers get an FTO. Paramedics work with a partner. Soldiers get assigned to a squad. Civilian self-defense doesn't have the modeling aspect that is so important to adjusting from training to application.
And I don't know the answer either. I have a collection of really important pieces. But a collection of pieces, as a writing project, looks like a mess.
The things I want to cover:
- The problem, as outlined above-- training for high stakes, low information, low margin of error rapidly evolving situations.
- Time in emergencies. Discretionary time, time distortion, stuff like that.
- Evaluating sources. Why social sciences are mistrusted in professional violence fields.
- Qualities of effective emergency techniques
- Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Definitions, values and drawbacks. This one is definitely the heart of the matter
- Scenario training
- Experience thresholds that rewire your brain and pitfalls and values of teaching from the different thresholds and how to handle teaching to people of different experience levels than your own.
- Dogma and it's effects. Tribalism versus truth
- Teaching adults/adult learning theory
- Big section on teaching professionals including designing lesson plans to standard, evaluation, getting lesson plans approved, required paperwork, coming in as an outsider...
- Testing effectiveness, evaluating "best practices"
- Related, the relationship between rules, policy and sympathetic magic. Ritualization of bureaucracy
- Working in the political reality (finding the line between effectiveness and policy and law; that the rules for how to teach are written around current models, not effectiveness)
- Bad student profiles and trouble shooting
- Designing short and long-term curricula
- Integrating skills (e.g. often, for police, DTs, handgun, baton, OC and Taser are taught in separate classes as separate skills.)
- Ethics and judgment under survival pressure
- Training and writing policy for Black Swan events
- Teaching homogenous versus diverse groups; diversity/homogeneity on different scales
- Related to above, possibly some advice for people who have never worked in certain environments. Some things that seem like attacks are actually tests, for instance.
- Explicit power dynamics
- Glitch hunting and countering social conditioning
- Managing a career as an instructor
- Questions, unknowns and twilight zone experiences for some of the sections.
But the first rule of writing is to finish the damn thing. I can organize when the pieces are all done.
ADVENTURES IN SELF-DECEPTION
"Don't stop believing."Journey
"People are crazier than anybody."Ron Goin
I was chatting online not to long ago with a guy who believes in Reiki. And not just any old Reiki mind you. No, this guy believes in "remote" Reiki.
Just to catch you up, Reiki is this type of new age-y "therapy" in which a Reiki practitioner (often called a "master") moves his or her hands near the client's body to manipulate "energy fields". No physical contact is made. It's all done in the air, inches away from the skin. Reiki practitioners claim to be able to help with all kinds of health problems from basic relaxation all the way up to treating disease and injury.
But in "remote" Reiki, they go the extra mile, literally--they claim that they can send energy manipulation across time and space.
Let's say, for example, that you have a torn rotator cuff, but you live in, oh I dunno, let's say Siberia. Well, a remote Reiki master could wave his hands in his rumpus room in Des Moines, and soon these vibrations will travel miles and miles, cross different time zones, and suddenly you'll have full range of motion.
So, in my online chat I said something like, "Surely you must be joking, you don't really believe that, do you?" half expecting the guy to say "Yes I do, and don't call me Shirley."
Instead the guy said he didn't just believe it, he KNEW it. He even put "KNEW" in upper case.
He knows it works. No evidence is needed, at least no evidence that would meet the modern definition of the word. No double blind testing. No statistics. No peer-reviewed analysis. He just knows. Excuse me, he KNOWS.
In another conversation I had with a religious person, a guy told me something similar. "Prayer works; prayer actually changes things," he said with absolute conviction. "I KNOW it works. I've personally experienced the benefits of prayer."
(Note: He didn't put "know" in upper case, 'cause he was talking, but he said it more emphatically than the rest of the conversation, so that counts).
He told me that he no longer craved alcohol and cigarettes, and that he now goes to church regularly and reads scripture daily. I said something like, "But that doesn't really prove anything. Lots of people just go cold turkey and give up stuff all the time, and tons of people make conscious decisions to change their lives--and stop doing terrible things. They head to the gym. They go on diets. They stop smoking. They quit wearing those hideous hipster hats."
He was not swayed. He had dropped anchor, and it was holding fast. He sincerely believed the bumper sticker that reads, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!"
This "knowledge", this faith, this act of believing with no evidence whatsoever, is an odd thing.
David Schneider of Rice University said, "Huge numbers of our beliefs seem so grounded in reality or so much a part of our culture that it seems silly to question them and an empty academic exercise to seek their sources. On the other hand, most of us, at least when we are being thoughtful, recognize that other of our beliefs may have fragile contact indeed with any known larger reality. Furthermore people hold anomalous beliefs with as much conviction as we hold our unproblematic beliefs, and they often turn the tables on us by suggesting that we are the people who are out of touch with reality."
So, somebody believes some weird thing like ghosts, or alien abductions, or Sasquatch, or mind control via chemtrails, but when we question it, WE end up being the weird ones.
As readers of my blog know, I have said one or two (or 17) critical things about the martial arts; i.e., pressure point knockouts and chi manipulation. I routinely suggest to my nuttier friends to IX-NAY on the I-CHAY.
Most turn a deaf ear to my suggestions. It's like they have a hearing problem that even a Reiki master couldn't heal.
So here's the deal. We, you and me, us, all have weird beliefs. Mark Twain knew this. He wrote, "When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself."
Fortunately, training in critical thinking and the rational process of inquiry can have an impact and begin to overcome some of the mental obstacles of superstition,
belief in the paranormal, and a whole host of personal biases.
My own journey from faith-based acceptance to factual-based thinking took many years. After years of ignorance I made a commitment to familiarize myself with the science I should have learned in school, and I read hundreds of books and articles. Slowly the dimmer switch brought light to my cob-web covered, dusty attic of a brain. I now no longer recognize the person I once was, and I find that the style of thinking about the world that I used to have is foreign and laughably embarrassing.
In his contribution to Edge's 2012 Annual Question, Nathan Myhrvold wrote about what he thinks of his favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation--the scientific method: "Stories about different aspects of the world can be questioned skeptically, and tested with observations and experiments. If a story survives the tests then provisionally at least one can accept it as something more than a mere story; it is a theory that has real explanatory power. It will never be more than a provisional explanation—we can never let down our skeptical guard—but these provisional explanations can be very useful. We call this process of making and vetting stories the scientific method."
As Carl Sagan once said, "You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don't see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it."
Lawrence Kane called this morning. Last summer, we shot a video tie-in to the Scaling Force book. David Silver at YMAA is working on the magic post production stuff and just sent us the rough cut. Lawrence wasn't able to fly out for the filming, so seeing the rough cut was his first exposure to the physical stuff filmed. And he wants to move a piece right up front. And that would open a whole can of worms.
"Scaling Force" was Lawrence's brain child. Force/violence is a big issue, and appropriate responses to force or threatened force range from doing nothing (sometimes just being a witness makes bad people stop) all the way up to deadly force. Lawrence noticed that most martial arts concentrate at only one or two of the appropriate levels of response. Boxing really doesn't have good tools for taking the keys from your favorite drunken uncle at a New Years party.
It's easy to read the book as legalese-- "deadly force" and "self-defense", just to give two examples, are legal terms. The actual goal was to get people unfamiliar with the context a little exposure to the different possible levels. Low levels of force, like presence and verbal, are very idiosyncratic. High pitched and low pitched voices can't be used in the same way. Both can work, but not always in the same instances or using the same phrases. Physical people present differently than sedentary people.
And high levels of force are only appropriate in very bad situations. The essence of self-defense is that things are going bad. You are behind the curve. The threat is bigger and stronger and/or armed and/or crazy and/or multiple. You are surprised and almost certainly off balance with minimal room to run or maneuver, no time to evaluate and plan, with compromised structure and likely injured before you knew it was on. If you are working in your weight class with good lighting, footing, room, some time, equal numbers and equal weapons, it's a mutual fight, not self-defense.
Anyway, towards the end of the video, we demonstrate fighting out of a crowd. It's not really fighting, and you have to be careful with language here. It's a lot closer to swimming. If I try to fight a mass of people, I'll get overwhelmed. But you can move through them. It's just that the body mechanics of fighting are very close to the opposite of what you need here.
Lawrence thought it was cool and unique and should be near the front of the video. I'm cool with that. Really the whole marketing and capturing attention and drama is all a little above my paygrade. But it does open a can of worms. And here's the can of worms.
Justified and justifiable are not always the same thing. In 1992, the Oregonian surveyed Portland Police officers. One of the details: In the four years before the survey, 86% said they could have fired with full legal justification but chose not to. There are some implications of that-- for every 28 shootings, officers bet their lives they could find another way about 900 times. And were largely successful except, of course, dead officers don't get to fill out surveys.
So first hurdle, because something is justifiable doesn't mean you couldn't find another way. My personal definition, Justifiable means I could convince a jury, Justified means I can convince myself there was no other way out. Prudent means it would be stupid to go in at a lower level.
The thing with fighting out of a crowd is that it shows another level. Getting pounded by eight people is a huge disparity of force. Unless they are all kindergardeners or geriatrics in walkers, it's not hard to justify deadly force. In general, higher levels force are quicker, easier and more effective than lower levels. You might win an argument with words (verbal), but you will certainly win it with a shotgun. Shotguns also tend to trump other hand to hand skills. Where it can take years to get good enough to fight a boxer, it takes hours or less to get good enough to shoot one. Higher levels of force-- quicker, easier, more certain. But the higher level of force, the more it takes to justify it.
But sometimes the higher level of force can be completely justified, completely prudent, but not the smart thing to do. Like fighting out of a crowd. I'm decent at close quarters stuff. That's my range and I know how to deliver power there. Know how to use one guy as a meat shield against the others. No hesitation on going for the quick finishers. Even have some favorite power generations that are completely non-static. Feet don't even need to be touching the ground. But in that mass, with all of those variables, with any kinetic energy I deliver changing the physics of my motion, things will go wrong. Someone who goes down might tangle my legs. A push or strike on my part might make me a static target for just an instant.
Hence the swim and it works.
People like rules of thumb. And rules of thumb work reliably enough to, well, become rules of thumb. "High levels of force are faster, safer and more effective than lower levels" is a good rule of thumb. But like all of them, it has a failure point. A situation where something else becomes true. Or truer.
Fast forward to a short conversation with Edwin yesterday. From the Golden Move standard (each motion should protect you, damage the threat, better your position and worsen his) given that sometimes you just can't get all four, or all four aren't prudent, how do you prioritize?
You can't give a quick rule for that. Goals, parameters and environment change. Sometimes it's so important to finish things quickly that it's worth taking damage to do so. (And, less academic, you're probably going to take some damage anyway, so suck it up, Buttercup. But that said taking damage unnecessarily is, by definition, unnecessary. Smart people don't do it.) Sometimes, fighting out of a shitty position is more important than ending the threat. Better to do both, but if you're with a bad guy in a burning, collapsing building and damage to him will cost you even a second, improve your position.
Maybe justified and justifiable can be subsumed under smart. Do the smart thing. If it's not justifiable and you either can't live with yourself or you go to prison... hmmm, maybe it wasn't all that smart? Justifying--articulation-- then becomes the skill. Do the smartest thing you're capable of, but practice explaining why it was the best available option.
And maybe, in the end, smart is the wrong word too. Maybe just necessary.
(David even sent the embed link below. No idea if it will work.)
Corollary to that, the way you teach must have a purpose as well. How you teach must serve the purpose of teaching. This is about getting stuff into your student's heads, not showing what is in yours. This is about what your students can do after the class, not what you did a decade ago,
I recently watched a very well known instructor. He told a lot of war stories. To hear him tell it, he had participated at levels of violence you can only imagine, no matter who you are. And all of his experiences were special. You could say, "I've tried X and it worked about 20% of the time" and he would cut in with some graphic story implying that you had never done it as right, as hard, as harrowing as he had. You've struck testicles with no effect? Well, he'd eaten them and by gawd that always worked, son!
By the end of the weekend, the students were visibly uncomfortable whenever this instructor stepped up to teach. Telling outrageous stories to a point might validate you. But after a certain point, it becomes easy to disbelieve.
Years ago, Marc MacYoung (I don't remember the exact quote) wrote about a someone asking him why he laughed when a friend was maimed. He said something to the point of, 'You can laugh or you can cry, but if you cry you'll never stop.' The humanity in that phrase struck me. I've been to too many funerals. I laugh, and I would tell my rookies, "You can take the job seriously or yourself seriously, but never both at the same time." You have to be laughing at something. Always. Because the other direction is madness.
I don't tell a lot of war stories when I teach. The point of the class is what the students can do at the end of it, not what I did in the past. But I tell a few, specific ones for specific reasons. And almost all of them are about failure. Where things didn't work. What I learned.
My war stories are all about what I learned. And the subtext is clear: I'm just an ordinary, average guy who has been in some weird places. You can be better than me. Hell, I expect and demand that you surpass me. Otherwise you are insulting my teaching ability.
To the other instructor, his war stories were an ego fest. "I'm cool. You could never possible understand or exceed me. Therefor you must listen like children, not like the adults that you are. Bow in awe."
One of the things from Violence Dynamics in Minnesota. The drop step is everywhere.
Not going to go into too much detail on what the drop step is. You can read that here.
Just the basic Dempsey drop step generates enormous power. But it also increases speed. Gravity is faster than you. And, if you can let the drop happen instead of make it happen, it's untelegraphed. Gravity doesn't flinch. It increases your range. It allows you to make powerful strikes (fast and untelegraphed) to your rear flank. And that's just the basic drop step.
Drop steps can be loaded or natural. A natural drop step, you just lift a foot and start to fall. A loaded drop step you shift weight towards the foot you intend to lift so the CoG is farther from the (single foot) base that will remain. And there are dramatic ways to load a drop step. Look at the way a pitcher raises his center of gravity and extends the natural stride length to maximize speed in a throw.
In martial terms, baseball pitchers use a crane stance to load power into a front stance. Good body mechanics are universal.
The sutemi-waza, judo's sacrifice throws, are another variation. And they work almost always-- provided there is no telegraph. Once you clinch up with someone, you can choose to see yourself as a bipedal greature with a base and a center of gravity in a contest with a different bipedal creature who also has a center of gravity. Or you can choose to see the entirety as a four-legged creature with a shared center of gravity. And you have absolute control over two of the legs. Removing your two legs puts the CoG well outside the base instantly. Too fast for the opponent to read and recover. Again, all assuming there is no telegraph and you truly drop. You can't do a controlled lie-down.
Sosuishitsu-ryu has a body mechanic for power I haven't seen elsewhere, but at its root it is a loaded drop step for that four-footed animal. Trying to describe in words: You are locked up with uke, either in a tight clinch or a joint lock (do NOT try this at home with locks. Some of the koryu were very good at preventing uke from doing a proper breakfall and a few of the kata have uke landing on locked joints, including the neck. Really, really dangerous. Not something you want to experiment with without expert supervision.) Anyway, with that tight grip, you are one animal. Tori throws his left foot up as if he is doing a spinning crescent kick, turning to his left and throws the crescent kick coming all the way down to his left knee, spinning 180 degrees with uke attached. It's brutal. And there's a variation which takes the spin to 360. It is also very hard on your knees over the years.
On the ground, you can get wicked speed in some spins by creating spaces and falling into them. One we used in Minnesota was for weapon retention while face down. Bad guy is on your back going for your holstered gun. Not going into the mechanics of the technique here, but creating a space and falling into it correctly usually whips the bad guy off of you, even if there is a big size disparity. And crushes certain precious small bones, which is a bonus.
But the drop step is everywhere. Experienced people don't split wood with just their arms. With every swing they raise their center of gravity and let it fall.
That's another thing. Gravity never gets tired.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, 1676.
Isaac Newton was not the first man to recognize that while he had achieved much, he owed it to those who had gone before him. In 1159 John of Salisbury wrote that
Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.
Today Isaac Newton is recognized as a great figure for his work in furthering our understanding of the laws of physics. His work paved the way for further research, discovery and refinement in diverse fields by other great scientists such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, some of which is known to (and partially understood) by laymen. The basic elements of Newton’s work are commonly taught in schools to children, and we owe a debt of gratitude not just to him but to the huge numbers of nameless teachers that have themselves gone no further for the majority of their academic careers, but stand teaching in his shadow and the shadow of his successors, creating the environment where others may climb on the shoulders of the giants, or grow to be giants themselves – whether standing on their own or on another’s shoulders.
There is nothing wrong with studying the work of Newton. It is a building block for later scientific research.
There does come a point however where studying Newton’s work becomes less a study of physics, and less about improving your knowledge of physics, than it becomes an exercise in historical research: a worthwhile and rewarding endeavour, but one of a different nature.
The world of Karate is filled with giants. It is an honour to stand in their shadow and teach what we believe they taught.
Those that do this perpetuate and further the art; they create an environment where others may grow to become giants or benefit from re-treading the steps of others. In some respects they are like the modern physics teachers in schools who give a good grounding in physics.
Both in the present and the past these karateka have created the environment where others can choose to follow the footsteps in the sand, and become great karateka teaching approximately the same material they learned, or stand on the shoulders of others.
Those karateka who choose to move on, to stand on the shoulders of others (to explore and develop other ideas gained through introspection or cross training), gain a different perspective. Through those differing perspectives and different pedagogies new karate styles have been born throughout the last century and will continue to be born in the future. This happens not because of an egotistical desire to create something new, but the very natural desire to pass on a personal perspective based on the lessons learned: it is why there is so much diversity not only in karate but in the martial arts as a whole. Those that have cross-trained know that the finer principles or ‘in depth study secrets’ of some arts are the bread and butter basics of others, taught immediately to beginners.
I am not saying that all those who have begun to teach new karate styles in the last century or more are giants, nor am I saying that those upon whom they built their study were giants: many of them are or were simply good karateka. They see differently because they stand on the shoulders of those that went before, rather than walk in the same footsteps. Like Einstein and Hawking they have the opportunity to go in a different direction because of the groundwork laid for them.
Karate is comprised of many different styles. My perspective is that different does not necessarily mean better, nor does it mean worse.
For me the descriptors of old, modern, classical, Okinawan, Japanese, western, practical or traditional do not equate to higher or lower standards, or greater or lesser worth.
Whatever our chosen karate discipline we may not all be giants, but we can all choose where we stand and what we wish to study, and we can all become better karateka.
The beginning of the new year is a time when many of us set ourselves a list of targets. Among this list many people include a series of goals relating to their health and fitness. These are worthy endeavours, but ones that can fall prey to the pitfalls of inadequate planning.
Most new year’s resolutions fail not because a lack of resolve, but because of an inadequately prepared recognition and reward strategy to support the path that must be taken to achieve the target.
The health and fitness targets we set ourselves depend very much on the problem we believe that we are trying to solve.
The most important thing is that we understand precisely what we are trying to do, so that we can break each target down into clearly defined steps that we can visualise ourselves reaching.
We may not be able to see all the steps required, which is why a review, reassessment and fresh step setting process should by part of the plan. The first steps should be realistic and easily achievable.
Our targets should always be SMART, that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time limited.
Specific: We must make clear and unambiguous statements about what it is we are going to achieve.
Measurable: There must be some way to determine when the target has been met. We therefore make a statement that describes how we will measure success or failure of the objective.
Achievable: It must be possible to reach the target. It is important to understand in advance whether or not the target is achievable. It is important to remember, however, that many tasks when first approached seem insurmountable, so it is important to be optimistic and to take on a challenge.
Rewarding: The target should bring sufficient reward that it is worth undertaking. There is always a cost / benefit ratio to consider. It is always important to consider what the cost and benefit will be before initiating a task.
Time limited: There should be a clear time frame set out for when the objective will be met. Many things of worth are not achieved quickly and it is important to approach tasks consistently rather than sporadically. Breaking the task down into sub-tasks and estimating time frames is essential if we are to understand the cost of the task.
I have a plan for the new year. It builds on the successes of the years beforehand and takes valuable lessons from the failures of the past.
My smart steps are in place – are yours?
Because most people have so little experience with violence, they go into violent professions with no idea of what a “normal” response is. The keyboard warriors who teach that every potentially violent encounter is a life threatening situation and must be dealt with using maximum force and the clueless protesters who can’t imagine why any “unarmed child” would ever have to be shot, show the breathtaking range and depth of ignorance on this subject. There are many ways to be stupid. Or, to put it slightly more gently, if ignorance of violence is a hole, there is a universe of fantasy possibilities to fill that hole-- fantasies ranging from visualizing world peace to nuke them all and let god sort them out.But fantasies don't actually fill holes anymore than they stop bleeding.So rookies have no idea of what normal is-- and there are many ways to be successful in violence professions. Most aren’t skilled martial artists, but some make that work. Some use size and strength, some don’t. Some rely on tools and weapons as a first option, some as a last resort. And there are a lot of ways to come to an understanding or a philosophy of force.From Bruce Lee’s “Emotional content” to a sniper’s “The only thing you should feel is recoil.” There are completely incompatible concepts that work. Or “You must draw on your rage” to my “I don’t have the emotional energy to be angry all the time. Besides, when I’m angry I fight stupid.”There may be a thousand stupid unworkable option for every good option, but there are a fair number of good options, too. And okay options. And passable options. And it's more global. It's not just a matter of what physical response is optimal in a specific situation (as if that answer would be the same for different sizes and personalities). At one level it's who you will be. Runners, Fighters and Talkers all successfully solve problems.Again, this threshold rewires your brain. You can access your training, and it becomes less difficult the more experience you have.
And more, talking about modeling:
In the professional fields, rookies will model their mentors and cohorts. The first few encounters are very important to molding one’s fighting personality (See VAWGfor more on that). If those first encounters happen in the company of mature, controlled professionals, the rookie will tend to become a good professional. If the rookie is working with hesitant and timid people, she will become hesitant and timid. If she works with aggressive people who use excessive force, she will become aggressive and uncontrolled. If she works with an individual or group that believes in only one option (e.g. talking, hand to hand, baton, gun…) she will be like the proverbial kid with a hammer seeing the world composed of nails.
So farewell 2014… At first glance it has not been a good year.
On New Year’s Eve 2013 I cancelled my plans to go out because of a sore throat. A week later, while training with a visiting guest from Argentina, I felt tired, sloppy and without focus.
A few days later still I was admitted to hospital with an unshakeable fever and swollen throat for the first of what would become several unplanned stays over the course of the year.
The initial diagnosis was epiglottitis and lingual tonsillitis. The treatment: two months of rest and a long course of antibiotics.
I’m not used to taking a long time away from training.
When my kidneys first failed I was still attending two 2 hour Aikido classes a week alongside personal karate training while my blood creatinine levels were so high that the renal registrar was astonished to see me walk into hospital for a pre dialysis operation. I carried on training with a temporary haemodialysis catheter hanging from my chest that was plugged directly into my subclavian vein. When that was removed I continued to train with a peritoneal dialysis catheter sticking out the side of my abdomen (actually I wouldn’t recommend that for an art as rough as Aikido – the catheter moved in my abdomen so much it took a three hour long operation to remove and judging by the clean up and investigation required it had probably perforated my intestines at some point in time). After both my renal transplants I have been on the training floor within 5 weeks of the operation.
The months dragged by. An attempt to return to training and teaching at the end of the ‘recovery period’ brought another fever and another stay in hospital. After another break, and making the decision to fully resume all my training and teaching to correct severe training flaws creeping in among my students, the pattern repeated itself and I found myself back in hospital only a week before a planned biopsy of the swollen tissue.
The good news was the biopsy was clear. The PET scans were clear.
The bad news was that my throat was still swollen, still painful, and only continual antibiotics would keep the fevers (and swelling so extreme it would require hospitalisation) at bay.
It was time to press on with teaching and training until I could schedule an operation to remove the offending infected tissue with minimal impact on my classes and my students.
All this medical attention has had some positive effects.
The attempts to rid my body of this (probable viral) infection in my throat has resulted in a sustainable experimental lower immunosuppressant regime which is better for my overall health as well as the transplant’s longevity, and my red blood cell count has increased, leading to increased energy and more sustainable aerobic activity.
Taking a step back has been useful both for me as a martial artist and as a teacher.
In terms of my own training it has helped me see what aspects were deeply ingrained and what I needed to work on more.
That has given a clarity to my personal training goals that I have not enjoyed since my last transplant in 2005. As a teacher, looking at my students, my absence made it obvious which elements of my syllabus they had actually absorbed, and where their understanding was merely superficial: like a dance routine or script learned purely for a performance and discarded thereafter. That revelation, with its mix of good and bad news, has led to a degree of introspection of my pedagogy, and a resulting shake up that I know will be beneficial for my students.
This may read like a litany of future successes snatched from the jaws of failure, but that is the nature of progress.
We don’t progress unless we try, and if we don’t try hard enough we won’t experience mistakes and failures.
The important thing is to move on from those failures and remember the lessons they taught you. There is a limited amount of times you can try the same approach before you have to accept that it hasn’t worked, it isn’t going to work, that it is not the right tool for the job or you are trying to change something that cannot be changed, or improve something that is already reached the extent of its limitations.
The year HAS had its share of positive changes…
A new personal dojo has given me a better space in which to train at home and the ability to hang a heavy bag, which I look forward to using to refine elements of my striking skills and improve my kicks (which are definitely weaker than they used to be). Although my two personal forms are designed to be drilled in very limited space the new dojo has also given me the ability to train older forms without continuous changes of position and I’ve already used it to film a short little video.
2014 has also been the year that I’ve finally begun publishing my new series of books on the Pinan / Heian kata, with two books released this year in both paperback and ebook formats.
My last book was written in 2004 and released in 2007 and this new series reflects the changes in the drills that I prefer to teach for the kata, and a wish to share more information in more manageable packages. One of the biggest issues with books is getting the quality of the pictures right to convey the information to the reader, and there’s a big difference between what looks good online, what looks good on a home printer, and what is the right quality for a printing press. It has taken a lot of time and work to come up with a format that I was happy to see published and met the recommendations of my peers.
At this point in time the response to the first two books in the series (covering the first three Pinan / Heian forms) has been very positive and I intend to release the final two books in 2015.
Another big change this year was my decision to open a club where Shotokan karateka could train in addition to my DART karate clubs.
There is a lot of good Shotokan near me, but I wanted to offer a kata based syllabus to students with the kumite consisting of bunkai and the kihon based predominantly around impact and balance training. I didn’t want my new Shotokan clubs to be divisive and I recognised that I would be teaching quite a different syllabus to other local karateka, so I decided to make the club open to any karateka to train by arrangement in addition to their regular training without need to grade with me or leave their current association. So far the club has attracted some great karateka and it’s been a real pleasure to teach the classes.
Going back into full training while tired and ill is an interesting experience. In the late 90s and at the turn of the century I was privileged to train for a week each August for a few summers with the late great Aikidoka Pierre Chassang. Chatting with Pierre (in my poor French) in the canteen or watching him walk about away from training he seemed like a normal small old man shuffling about in a tracksuit.
However, as soon as Pierre stepped onto the mats he grew, seeming to straighten up and draw energy from the ground and the people around him.
I am not the martial artist that Pierre was, but I felt the same when I returned to training after my transplants and this year each time I have stepped tired onto the training area I have felt that same energy, growth and motivation.
This week I’m going under a general anaesthetic yet again to have a lot of swollen tissue cut away from the base of my tongue deep in my throat. The surgeon has promised me at least two weeks of pain. A perfect martial artist’s Christmas and New Year?
I’ll let you know. :)
The essential karate book by Graeme Lund is a working text that I wish had existed 25 years ago. Just under A4 size it is one of the best laid out and clearly presented karate books that I have ever seen, with great line drawings and bright colour pictures illustrating techniques. It is filled with clear examples of the basic techniques, supporting exercises, terminology and physiology as well as a useful guide to refereeing matches, making it a suitable library addition for both beginner and black belt alike.
Karate is of course a generic term that describes a diverse range of martial arts, so to a large degree this book would be a disappointment to many karateka. This is a book about WKF Karate, which means that it will appeal to the adherents of some karate traditions while raising the hackles of others, but we can hardly blame Graeme Lund for that. This is a book devoted to the exercise of karate as a potential Olympic sport.
The book comes with a DVD filled with demonstrations of basic techniques and this is its weakest point. The book is cutting edge in its picture clarity, which only highlights the poor quality of the accompanying short DVD that can only be described as having the picture quality of a 1980s pirate movie combined with echoing sound. Until a new DVD is issued my advice would be to read the book but ignore the DVD.
For those who are beginning a WKF approved form of karate this is an incredibly useful book. In one place it combines a skeleton history of karate, demonstrations and explanations of basic training uses of karate techniques, information on competitions and refereeing, a two way glossary of English and Japanese terminology, a useful section on core conditioning exercises and traditional karate information such as information on the body’s striking surfaces and vital points.
I’m not a WKF competition aficionado but I do like this book. I’ve an extensive library, but this book pulls together in one place some things that otherwise I’d have to search through several books to find. What sets it apart from almost every other book on my shelves is the remarkable quality of the images, which at the current book price ($12.49 US hardback) is unusual.
“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)
When I am delivering personal safety training I occasionally get asked whether a car should be parked ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. Often the person asking has a preconceived answer based upon what they’ve heard or read. I also have a preconceived answer, but it might not be what you think.
When it comes to the use of our vehicles in self defence, or accessing our vehicles to escape in a self defence situation, there are four key variables that I like people to consider: the context and environment, the vehicle, the personal capabilities and limitations of the person parking, and the likelihood of the car being part of a combative or escape situation.
The context and environment
Why are you parking, why are you making this trip?
If you are shopping for things that require you to access the boot (trunk) of your car then your priority should be to be for that to be easily accessible – in other words it shouldn’t have another car parked up against it. Whether or not that is ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’ depends on the design of the parking spaces in the vicinity.
Where are you parking, what time are you parking and when will you return to collect your car?
When you park tends to determine how much choice you get as to where you park, when you are returning will tend to determine how many cars are around yours and therefore how easy it is to access the doors or see into the car. Ideally people should choose well lit, overlooked (and possibly CCTV monitored) car parks – but often that choice isn’t fully ours to make.
How many other people have already parked?
The choice of parking space is often determined by the actions of others. That also determines as to whether ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’ best suits your needs.
How big is the parking space relative to the car?
If you’re parking in Europe or the UK then getting in or out of a car when other cars are parked alongside is generally an exercise in body contortionism. It’s not something that is affected much by how the car is parked. You aren’t going to be able to use an opened door as an effective shield. The position of the nose of the car that gives you the quickest access to the back of the doors from the direction from which you approach the car is the ‘best’ position but by so little it hardly makes a difference.
Does your car have an airbag?
Most modern cars have an airbag safety feature. This means if we bump into something the airbag deploys and hits the driver and obscures the view ahead. Generally speaking the airbag in the steering wheel is more likely to be deployed if the car hits something to the front than to the back. As a result if you do have to ram something to get out of a situation it can often be best to do so using the back of the car unless you are already pre-prepared and ready for an airbag deployment.
Does the car have a crumple zone?
Most modern cars are designed to crumple more at the front than at the rear. The front of the car is therefore the worst thing to hit anything with while driving to escape. As we are more likely to bump into things under pressure an initial reversing out of a spot may be safer than driving nose first. This may apply more to cars built to European safety standards than other standards.
Is your car lower or higher than normal?
This will affect how quickly you can get into your car under pressure.
Does your car have easily operable doors?
This will affect how quickly you can get into your car under pressure.
Is the car closed or open topped?
Trying to escape from someone in by getting into an open topped car may mean you get ‘in’ quicker, but they are more likely to join you.
Does the car have an electronic key or a physical key?
With high adrenaline levels and a resultant lowered fine motor control, inserting a key into a door may take much longer than normal. Opening the car by an electronic key is quicker and more reliable.
Does the car have an automatic internal locking button?
One of my habits on entering a car is to lock the doors if I am on my own. It’s routine. The car will do it anyway as soon as I drive off.
Your personable capabilities
How are you used to parking?
How I park depends on what I am doing and the angle of approach available, along with what I am driving. If I’m going to the supermarket or teaching a martial arts class I will always park ‘nose in’ as I want to put things in and out of the boot (trunk). If I’m not using the boot then depending on the angle of approach and where I am parking I’ll go either ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. As I’m more accustomed to parking ‘nose in’, under pressure without thinking about it I’d be more likely to put the car into reverse than first gear. Under pressure most of us will do what we have trained to do.
Could you actually run someone down that you could see?
A large number of people that I have met in both the martial arts and non martial arts community are very averse to hitting people, especially hitting people in the face. They can hit pads, but hitting a real person doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially under pressure. If you are not a particularly violent person then deliberately driving forwards into someone trying to stop your car may be beyond you. Reversing into a person you can’t see clearly may be easier (and safer).
The likelihood of the car being part of a combative or escape situation
Are people attacked by people hiding near or in their cars? Yes. Do people have to run to their cars to escape? Yes. Are these events common? No. Is the likelihood of such an event high? No. If you want to form a better picture and see just how low the odds of it happening are then do some research to see how often it has happened, where it has happened, and from that you might get an idea of why it happened. The risk of having to get into your car at speed to avoid pursuit or attack is so low that it should not outweigh the primary convenience factors of why you are parking in the first place.
I’ve looked at this ‘in’ or ‘out’ question. I’ve probably over analysed it. I’ve done this so that I don’t have to think about it again. In my opinion the key priority that should determine how we park is what we are intending to do. The factors that surround getting into a car under pressure means that when accessing the vehicle it makes very little difference whether you are ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. What is better for driving away depends on your personality and the type of vehicle. For me the majority of the time I need to access my boot (trunk) and the environment forces me to park ‘nose in’ to do so. Would I prefer to reverse into a threat than drive head on into a threat – given the nature of my car and its crumple and airbag system I’d prefer to reverse out of a space. Carry on parking whichever way you have been parking for the purpose for which you are parking and where possible choose easily accessible, well lit and overlooked/monitored sites.
I’m extremely excited to be releasing Volume Two of the Pinan Flow System, outlining how I use Pinan / Heian Sandan to teach free movement between striking and controlling strategies along with the ability to adapt to different stimuli. I rate this kata incredibly highly and I hope that by taking the time to record my drills in pictures, this book will ‘open it up’ to far more people than I could possibly reach by seminars and classes alone.
This book, the second in a four volume series, examines the third Pinan / Heian kata. With practical application drills based on both the study of the reactions of students to common forms of aggression and violence in high pressure scenario simulations, and years of research into violent crime, it contains a detailed analysis of the attributes that make techniques effective, along with a discussion of the case for grappling and throwing being an integral part of karate, and a look at some of the myths surrounding the purpose and application of kata.
Volume Two approaches the kata by looking at the common factors that unite effective combative approaches rather than focusing on minor stylistic differences, and as a result provides applications for everyone regardless of style or grade.
The drills have a heavy focus on utilising movements in the kata to move from compromised positions to achieve a control or strike. Rather than offering a single solution the drills recognise the inherent variety provided by tactile situations and offer lots of redundancies, all keeping within the scope of the form. The drills cover responses to habitual acts of violence (HAOV) such as punches, grabs, tackles, leg-lifts, headlocks and clinch like positions. The kata comes alive with punches, open-handed strikes, forearm strikes, unbalancing strategies, knee strikes, arm controls and throws.
The Pinan Flow System refers to the ability to train karateka to move seamlessly between grappling and ballistic responses using techniques and tactics embedded in the kata, and illustrates why the Pinan / Heian set are an essential training tool.
I’ve recently had two experienced Dan grades come to join me for ‘extra’ karate training in addition to their own regular club training, and if their smiles and laughter as the kata has come alive for them in these drills is any measure then I know that a lot of students and instructors will benefit from this book.
The book is available internationally on amazon and the ebook will be released on Kindle before Christmas.
"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?
"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.
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.”
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."Godfather 3
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.
Sleep in my own bed, for at least one night. Other things may be happening and I may have to hit the road immediately, but when all settles, other than a few friendly local things, I'm done until January.
Should be a good time for knee surgery. Have to make the appointment soon.
On the "to-do" list: 21 days left on NaNoWriMo to try to get the first draft of a book on teaching methods done. K probably has a list of chores a mile long. Get the house and land ready for winter. Update the website. Officially open the 2015 calendar (very slow this year, but largely because without opening the calendar 2015 is 50% booked. With 4x trips out of the country (most a month long) and another month-long East Coast). Three weeks' worth of accumulated e-mail. Evaluate 2014. Plan 2015. Do some long-term planning. Write some course curriculum.
It's busy, but it's all good. At the same time, it's unfocused. For many years, I lived with a plan and had a goals. When the goals were accomplished, I drifted. This life is a result of the drift. The power of focus is incredible and so is the power of adaptability in a drift. I have to make some evaluations and some choices. Or not. It's all an adventure.
More on the trip later. More on insights and discoveries. For now I have six hours to sleep, and then pack, go to the airport, and fly home. Good to be nearing the end of a journey.
Our body language can determine not only how likely we are to be chosen as a victim of an unprovoked violent crime, but also how likely an attack is to be successful. There are many things we can do to lower the (already low) risk of being hit if we are approached, but one of the simplest is how we hold our hands when talking and listening.
I have an unusual little rule in my clubs. If I am talking to you, and you are not in the middle of a drill or holding a partner, and you don’t have at least one hand held naturally at chest height or above that could successfully intercept me, then I will give you a light tap on the cheek to remind you that you were vulnerable to an attack.
Like many other instructors I teach drills where students have to defend themselves against an attack mid conversation, and I also do reaction exercises where students have to preempt on a visual or verbal stimuli while talking and listening in natural postures.
My ‘slap’ rule may seem harsh, but students only get a light ‘Eric Morcambe stye’ tap and the interesting thing is that the maximum number of times I can recall it happening to one student is three. I’ve seen enough people sucker punched to want my students to have good head protection while they appear as if they are merely talking or listening, and the best way to retrain that body language is constant practice.
I am tired. Mind and body tired. But the heart isn't. This is fun. Teaching is fun. Playing is fun. Watching people shift understanding so that difficult things become simple is powerful. Watching another generation step up to the challenge of improving the teaching methods-- that feels a little like legacy stuff.
Looking forward to a long break at home. Have some writing to do. Have a lot of experience to process. Things have been moving so fast that I haven't been debriefing properly. Lisa of Subtle Warrior came up with a way to train something that has in the past has been too dangerous to train live. Have to experiment to be sure. Klaus in Fritzlar came up with a way for people with neck injuries to participate in a drill that's normally unsafe. It's very easy (at my age and history of concussions and sleep deprivation) to forget things if I don't get some play time.
And today kicks of NaNoWriMo. I won't be doing fiction, but the challenge is to get a draft of a book done in 30 days. In my copious spare time.
Time to hit the road. Teaching in a few minutes.
Yes. Sort of. No.
I get the temptation. There are people willing to pay me for more. More what? That's the question. And I'm a capitalist. Anyone who makes more than they spend is, by at least one definition, a capitalist, and I equate debt to slavery and like functioning in the black. So am I going to turn down money? If it means making shit up, absolutely.
Taught properly, any level of force is dead simple. Not because violence isn't complicated-- it surely is. But because simple works and complexity fails. Because all the things that work, if taught properly, are just natural. Because people already know almost everything about force, maybe on a genetic level. You rarely have to teach people to fight, you have to unteach all the crap that's been layered in their heads over the truth.
People want more. More moves, more techniques...more complexity. And there are people who will fill that desire for cash. I can't do it. In truth, an advanced class, if I were capable of creating it, would have less material, not more. Cleaner principles, more efficiently taught, less to learn, more to understand.
I'm pretty confident that everything that works can be taught to proficiency in forty hours. Years spent practicing would hone the skills, of course, but in the end, this isn't hard. We all know skeletons because we all have skeletons. Locks, takedowns, spine controls, structured striking, destroying base...all just fuckin' with skeletons. (That totally must be a T-shirt). Do you have to teach a dog pack dynamics or an ape how to live in a troop? Hell no. So with humans you just have to point out what they already know.
There are nuances. People who need to escape need very different body mechanics and mindset than those who need to cuff. Granted. So maybe three 40-hour courses, but not interchangeable. And there are always other things-- I want to create an instructor development class. Teaching people how to deal with force is a different skill than dealing with force.
But what actually works is very limited. If you understand it. If you "know" joint locks, there are thousands. If you understand joint locks there are eight. Just eight. It doesn't take long to get that down. Similar for takedowns. And strikes. If someone can teach you for ten years and there are new insights all the time, the instructor may be holding back. Or you may be stupid. Or the teaching is at the level of knowledge, not understanding. And knowledge tends to not come out in a fight.
So, when we discuss the advanced class next year, I'll shift the conversation to how to teach the simple stuff. The people who want complexity can find or make it on their own.