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.
The Golden Move +1
My standard for any combative motion, for a long time, has been the Golden Move:
Every single motion should:
- Injure the threat
- Protect yourself
- Improve your position
- Worsen the threat's position
So you get the stereotypical martial artist who blocks a punch, steps to the correct angle and fires his counterpunch. Taking three moves. Which generally only works in demos where the partner (not a threat) stands still after the block. Offense, defense and motion were never supposed to be separated in the students head or, gods forbid, in the motion of a person who desperately needs efficiency. But it is easier to teach and easier to evaluate than integrated motion.
So, the Gold standard is one move with four effects (and good jujutsu gets more than that with multiple types of damage).
Blindfolded training adds one: 5. Gathers informationTouch is faster than sight. It is almost impossible to make a decisive motion without a 'tell' in the shift in your body weight. So touch is faster, harder to fool and, if you get good at reading precursor motion, gives you a half-beat of precognition
The second list-- Jeff's RulesAnything you teach must:
- Have a tactical use. As he put it, there's no reason to learn to fast holstering because taking your weapon out of the fight first is not useful. Holstering without looking is useful, because it allows you to watch for threats.
- Must work under an adrenaline dump. If you can't do it scared, you can't do it when you need it.
- Must work moving. If you have to have a solid base to hit or shoot, for combative persons you can't hit or shoot. Fights are dynamic, they happen moving.
- Must work when you can't see. I may have added this one, but Jeff was big on indexing, doing everything by touch. If you have to look at your holster or fumble and look for your magazines, you're taking your eyes out of the fight.
The third list was recent: Escape, Control, Disable. It's a way to organize everything you teach, a way to decide what is relevant and what isn't. Strategies, mindset and appropriate techniques are very different for these three different fields.
I want to add a fourth, at Marc's suggestion. Fighting. Just for you to think about on your own. And it will be a big rabbit hole for some of you. Fighting in this context is any form of contest-- Monkey Dance or voluntary Bar Brawl; competition of any type at any level. When you practice what you practice, is it for escape? To cuff? To disable? Or is it just to prove you are better at the skills of the struggle.
Be honest. This is for posterity.
One of the details of this teaching method is correction. The instructor's job is to tell the student what the student did wrong. Even on the rare occasion when the sensei starts with, "Very good..." there is always a "...but" to follow.
We know micromanaging makes for unproductive and unhappy employees. How and why did it become the norm in a field that should be about survival? If you get corrected no matter what you do, it creates a condition called "learned helplessness" in which the best strategy is to do as little as possible. Why waste energy when you will just be corrected anyway? If you're going to be punished, why be tired, too?
We had a great crew at the MNVD seminar. A week of intense fun, learning. For me it was a chance to tighten up on teaching methods and compare and contrast with others.
Dealing with violence, there aren't a lot of good answers. The usual issue is choosing the option that sucks the least. At this venue, all the instructors were on the same page for this: "That's not what I would have done but you did it and it worked. If I were to tell you something that worked was wrong, that doesn't make it wrong, that just means I'm an asshole."
The student's got the sentiment, they got the words. They actually seemed to revel in and they really grew with the freedom. But even on the last day, there were a few questions about whether someone achieved success 'correctly.' And throughout the week, almost everyone had been so brainwashed that when they were not being criticized by the instructors, they were criticizing themselves. One used the Dracula's Cape technique to evade simultaneous attacks from three people. Get this-- at a signal you can't see, three people, all within arm's reach, launch at you simultaneously. And you knock one back and successfully get off the X for the other two, who collide. That's a good day right there.
And you could see the guy who pulled it off listening to an imaginary sensei on his shoulder, telling him it wasn't perfect. Beating himself up over a success.
We all know, or at least should know, that efficient teaching involves rewarding improvement. Punishing imperfection might keep skills from degrading, but it does nothing to show the way forward. Constant criticism is not good teaching. It rewards passivity and creates victims. Knock it off. In the end, it will brainwash the students so badly that they will create and maintain little imaginary sensei that sit on their shoulders and whisper the criticism even when you aren't there.
Don't create that voice in your head, don't create that voice in your student's heads, and if you have an imaginary critical sensei perched on your shoulder, kill it.
In the meantime, Jaime Clubb from the UK sent me a review copy of his book, "Mordred's Victory" I'm about halfway through. I knew Jaime from the now-defunct Cyberkwoon website. It was the place I went to ask questions about Chinese arts, and where I first met Mauricio, Theo, Ffab, Dave Jamieson, Steve Pascoe and a few other valuable friends.
Jaime is someone I know on line only, and he's struck me as a good thinker, good writer. He's grown up with the RBSD movement in the UK.
There's a section in his book about teaching RBSD to kids. I don't teach kids, they don't need to know the things in my head and _if_ they can grasp the concept, they pretty much aren't kids anymore. But that's my perspective, not the truth. And one of his chapters talks about kids asking "why."
I haven't finished the chapter. I wanted to get this written before I finished Jaime's thoughts. Really good insight is often too influential, and when I'm around a good writer or a good instructor with good insights, like all humans I have a tendency to follow instead of think for myself. So a few paragraphs triggered a thought process and I want to get it down before I finish.
So, hat tip to Jaime for making me think.
If you have kids, you know some of the stages. The "no" stage and the "mine" stage. And the why stage. The why stage can be infuriating and there is always a sneaky suspicion that the kid is playing a game, pulling you to the end of your rope: Why is the sky blue? "Because the gasses in the atmosphere absorb more yellow and red light?" Why? "All substances reflect and absorb different electromagnetic wavelengths differently." If I'm very, very lucky here, the kid will switch from the "why" to the "what question: "Whats electromagnetic?"
The kid asking why is NOT trying to punk you out, not trying to dominate you, not trying to humiliate you with how shallow your knowledge really is. The kid doesn't know and desperately wants to know. More than that, kids want to understand, and you can't understand jack shit with just surface knowledge. So they push deeper, and "why" is a question that pushes deeper. If you can honestly track why to the source, you will find the principles that underly everything you do. The principles of the physical art that you study or the principles of your own ethics. All same/same. You just have to keep asking the question and answer honestly.
It's not the "what if" game. Every instructor knows the "what if monkey." For every situation or technique, there's the, "What if he counter attacks with the right hand?" "What if he has a knife concealed in his boot?" "What if he has a friend?" "What if the guy attacking you is a midget with a BJJ background?" "What if you're suddenly attacked by 37 ninjas?"
Because it follows a similar pattern (the same question repeated over and over, always based on the last answer) and because both patterns can be annoying and because both patterns inevitably lead beyond your ability to answer* it is possible to see these as related. But they aren't They absolutely aren't.
The questioning of "why" uses the wisdom of a child to get deeper, to understand things, to get the principles out in the open. The questioning of "what if" makes things more technical, more about the surface. If you understand a deep why, you can use that understanding in a thousand different situations. If you get a great answer on a what if question, you have one thing that you can only use in one ridiculously specific situation.
* Inevitably. All "what if" questions eventually grow into situations that can't be handled. And all why questions eventually dig down to physics so esoteric that no one knows the real answer. Our knowledge is limited, own that.
Every year I deliver a number of single sex and mixed sex personal safety and self defence courses or lectures. A moderator on the online forum Martial Arts Planet recently approached me to write a short article about how I approach the subject of female self defence. The subject is far too large to sum up in a single article, but what I can do is give my opinions on the starting points for creating a worthwhile course.
Planning and Preparation
- Know your audience.
This is crucial for creating course content. The age group (or groups), ethnic mix and general social background will determine both content and approach. Regrettably there is a high probability that within your group you may have women that have suffered some form of violence or abuse, and while the participants will normally have opted to take part, they have not done so to get traumatised by off the cuff remarks or generalisations, nor may they wish to share any experience. The audience determines both the content and teaching style of the course.
- Trainers and the elephants in the room.
(i) Experience. I believe that honesty is the best policy. A trainer should give a very short summation of their background to help put things in context. A trainer should be open about their experience (or lack of experience) and knowledge and the basis on which the course is designed.
(ii) Gender. Can a man deliver a self defence course to women, as he is not a woman? Yes. I know some exceptional self defence trainers both in the UK and abroad of both genders. Their knowledge, experience and ability to empathise and teach are far more important than their gender. Some men will only listen to men talking about self defence and some women will only pay attention to a woman (or have suffered a degree of trauma that makes a same-sex instructor a better option for participation and engagement), but that does not mean that a trainer of your own gender is always the best teacher on this subject.
- Teaching style.
Teaching style is a very individual thing and I have seen a range of different styles used effectively. Although self defence is a very serious subject, humour can be used, although I would advise against poking fun at students that you barely know. A good self defence course should be driven and paced by the instructor but provide the opportunity to include the students as what you say may encourage them to share something that has been weighing on their mind and such sharing may benefit both them, the other attendees and you.
Regrettably the length of the course (and each session) is often decided by the host rather than the trainer. Most trainers still take on constrained courses on the basis that providing some training is better than no training, but in doing so there will always be compromises on both teaching style and content. As a result it is important to prioritise. The mental aspects of self defence are more important, more useful and more permanent than any form of physical training and should be prioritised.
Personal Safety and Self Defence – the mental framework
The mental side of self defence is about empowering your audience through knowledge and personal motivation. What needs to be covered will depend upon the age and social background of your group. The following list and order is flexible as in forming a course certain elements will naturally tie together and cross-pollinate.
- Use of force and the law.
- Accurate crime picture (including risk) based on government, police and ED data (where available).
- Natural human reactions to actual or potential abuse, aggression and violence, both in anticipation of, during and after events.
- Rationales and motivation for action or inaction in self defence both before, during and after events.
- Avoidance strategies.
- Deterrence strategies.
- Awareness – common tactics and patterns in abuse, sexual crime and violent crime.
- De-escalation and no contact escape strategies – body language, use of voice, phrasing.
The list above is very much tied in with your credentials as a trainer. Being a martial artist or having personal experience is not enough. There is a huge body of high quality literature available for research (too much to recommend one single text) based on the experiences of large numbers of people.
Self Defence – the physical framework
Once again what can be delivered will depend upon the age and ability of the group and the time allocated. In my opinion the mental training is the key to unlocking the maximum potential of the physical training.
There is an elephant in the room when it comes to physical training. Realistically not everything works all the time, no matter how good a technique is. Skill, motivation, adrenaline and the element of surprise give an edge but so do aggression, experience and strength. With that said it is important that what is taught is material appropriate to the context of real scenarios and relative positions, is simple to do (even under pressure) and has been shown (to the training deliverer at the very least) to be reliable under pressure.
The following elements should form the basis of the physical part of the course.
- Biomechanics and weak points of the human body.
- Gross motor strikes that utilise otherwise natural and everyday movements.
- Impact training.
- Paired or group work based on HAOV (habitual acts of violence) to build confidence.
- Optional participation in scenario training.
Conscious incompetence. It could be viewed as a pretty harsh term. After all it sounds pretty nasty. Without the right attitude and support it is a discovery that can end martial arts training for many people. I would argue though that conscious incompetence is the driver that distinguishes between the average, the good and the great.
When we begin training we do so with mixed amount of conscious incompetence and unconscious incompetence. We know there’s a lot that we don’t know and we also don’t know how much we don’t know (known unknowns and unknown unknowns). After a short time most students pass into a state of unconscious incompetence, they continue to progress and refine their skills but they don’t really recognise or understand how imperfect their performance is or how it can be improved.
Conscious incompetence is the personal revelation that whatever you are doing is not ‘right’, that it could be done better. This does not necessarily mean that a person’s skill level is low or bad, simply that they recognise little (and large) flaws and areas for improvement. This is not the same as having flaws identified externally by others which we may or may not understand and which we are often coached through whether we ask for help or not.
Seeing fault in our own skill level in a large part of what we do in the martial arts can be extremely frustrating and demoralising. How we respond can determine whether we continue to enjoy our training, stay training in the same discipline or switch to another believing that we have wasted time, or quit the martial arts completely. Which route is taken depends on both the student and the instructor. In my experience a student that takes responsibility for their own learning, looks to their own effort to improve their own technique rather than relying heavily on their coach, and is prepared to put in the time to refine skills and correct faults is far more likely to see conscious incompetence as an interesting and motivating challenge. A student that relies heavily on their instructor for guidance, or who is used to achieving what they believe or have perceived to be a high skill level with ease, is far more like to be dissatisfied and look to blame the technique, the art or the instructor.
I believe that it is important that instructors continuously make students aware that there are levels within levels of techniques and skill sets, and that while they may be able to ‘do’ something, there is always room for an improvement. In such a learning environment, with students always encouraged to seek to polish their skills, conscious incompetence should be highlighted as a learning stage and a sign of improvement. If students are taught to see it as a sign of achievement and an impetus to develop it is less likely to have a negative effect. As a result students will probably be far more likely to come to their instructors for practical advice on how to improve.
The advice we give or take will depend very much on the problem we believe that we are trying to solve. The most important thing is that whether it is a plan for ourselves or for someone else, we should focus on small steps. Objectives 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 objective 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 objective. It is important to understand in advance whether or not the objective 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 objective 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.
Unconscious incompetence, conscious competence and conscious incompetence are a continuous cycle in our development. We approach something knowing we don’t know it, we then believe that we do know it and then discover that we don’t know it as well as we could. This engenders training to attempt to regain that feeling of conscious competence, but in doing so we also gain conscious incompetence of related skill sets and a realisation that we had unconscious incompetence of other things, and so our growth continues. It can be overwhelming or it can be seen as an exciting challenge. I like to view it as the latter and that is one of the main reasons why I’m still training.
The idea is how to train for emergencies. What teaching methods have the best chance when the skills must be used out of the box, under stress and with no time to think? Most of our current idea about teaching and learning are classroom based. Gordon Graham's High Risk-Low Frequency category is rarely addressed. When it is addressed, too often it is a magical handwave past the messy parts and an opportunity for administrators to check a box.
Military and police do it, sometimes well, often not. But professional units have a huge advantage and it may be the single most important component to making the skills functional. They do everything in their power to make sure that no one goes through their first several real encounters alone. You will have an FTO or be assigned to a squad. You try to make sure never to make a new unit out of rookies and if you must (say, because there is a new technology and therefor new and untested techniques) you put the most grizzled old veteran you can find in charge. If you want the unit to succeed.
This opportunity doesn't exist for civilians. You won't get the chance to go through your first home invasion with a partner who has been through dozens. And that modeling of someone else who knows how to deal with it may be the critical thing. So how can you train without it?
Have to cover teaching methods, adult learning, curriculum development. But I also want to get into the mysteries. Why do some very advanced techniques come out of nowhere with untrained people sometimes? There are a very few people who with minimal training and no experience did ridiculously complex things exactly as trained... but no one else with the same training did it. And statistically it appears to be so rare it might as well never happen. But it does. And some "perishable" skills seem to lock in under circumstances and pop up when needed decades after the last event or training. For all people? For some? Lots of mysteries.
Likely a section on acquiring the skills that will make you valuable to other people. Everybody can teach, but not everybody can teach something useful.
And even sections on the paperwork necessary if you want to teach pros.
Big project. Eager to get started and worried it won't be enough. I know this feeling.
I have lesson plans. I have lesson plans coming out of my ears. I've written lesson plans for SAR, the Sheriff's Office, the National Guard, the Iraqi Corrections Service... but, sometimes, damn.
So I'm in Germany. Some evening classes for civilians, cool. The regular Ambushes and Thugs/Intro to Violence seminar over the weekend. Cool. Conflict Communications on the campus of the Mainz riot police, cool. Conflict Communications is always cool since it doesn't matter what the problem is. Bad guys? Clueless bosses? Family? ConCom explains it pretty well. Tuesday was ConCom.
Wednesday was scheduled for physical control. I had been led to believe that this group needed some skills in arrest and control tactics. Perfectly cool, I'm relatively good at that. But no. Sigh. 37 people. Maybe fifteen agencies. None of them had the same policies or tools.
My normal arrest and control lesson plan is pretty practical. In eight hours we cover:
- Joint locks
- Take downs
- Leverage and leverage points
- Stance integrity
- Ground movement
- Pain (ethics and application)
- Lock transition to cuffing
- Using the Environment
Turns out I'm relatively good at this. Yeah, international trainer and all that jazz, blah, blah, blah... but I have never felt like I'm a good teacher, which probably has a lot to do with the tendency to improve...
Fighting organizes. It can organize in several ways. So I made the most appropriate organization for this group and let them vote on what they needed. We can talk about why later. The thing that I got excited about is that, as much as I train and think about conflict, I'd never organized it this way. Three levels: Escape, Control, Survival.
Completely different in every aspect. Only the Principles (things that made everything else work) crossed all three categories. And some became awesome insight. Power generation (one of my building blocks) is entirely different in "escape mode" and "damage mode" and doesn't apply (as I define it) at all in control mode. So I put the building blocks under the categories in which they were important. And let the students vote.
Okay, that's good teaching, let the adult students take control, blah blah blah...But I don't think i have ever once looked at my personal lost of critical skills (the BUILDING BLOCKS) and tied the to the basic goals--escape, control, disable. And it was easy. And powerful. And empowered the students.
Something Lawrence said a few weeks ago has been rolling around in my head. He said my writing, speaking and teaching were "pithy." Not a lot of words, many things implied or assumed instead of said. At the same time, I cover a fair amount of information. "Facing Violence" was essentially two hundred pages expanding on two paragraphs in "Meditations on Violence."
Implied and assumed. Assumed is hard, and potentially a serious problem. I'll write about experience thresholds later, but basically, people at different levels of experience think in different ways. Beginning drivers don't think like experienced drivers and experienced drivers don't think quite like security drivers and no one things about it like rally drivers.
The first time I taught a seminar, and one of the reasons I started writing, was because many of the students didn't have a vocabulary for things that were obvious to me. That there was a difference between a fight and an assault, for instance, or that self-defense was an affirmative defense to a crime. Violence is deep stuff and big, bigger than I will ever fully understand... but the parts I am familiar with have aspects that seem obvious, but may not be to others.
So you have to watch for your own assumptions all the time. When you teach, be alert for people who are not doing quite what you said, or are hesitating to begin at all. You may have confused them. And set up test questions (something else I need to write about) which are ways to find out what a thing truly is. You can use a test question to find if a situation is predatory or miscommunication; a proper boundary setting acts as a test question-- no normal person goes beyond the second step, opportunistic predators will push the third. For teaching, one of my favorite test questions is to have the student teach me. "Chris, you've been here four times. Guess what? You're teaching power generation."
Implied. I don't mind leaving lots implied. I teach adults and I respect them as adults. There's no need to spoon feed. Getting into specifics of dealing with EDPs (Emotionally Disturbed Persons) makes sense because so few have done it and almost everything they know about dealing with social conflict will fail. But they all have experience with social conflict, if not violence, and one of the keys in teaching adults is to tie it to their experience. I don't have to explain in details the things they experience every day, and it's a waste of time and, IMO, a show of disrespect to do so.
And there's a benefit. People aren't stupid. Okay, people in groups and people trumpeting their affiliations and a lot of drivers are stupid... but individuals are pretty smart. And, when allowed to be, they are innovative and insightful. And humans like to succeed and hate to fail. Which means, if you give them the tools and leave them alone, they'll do okay. And sometimes they surprise you and come up with something better than you ever thought of. Those are the best days for a teacher.
'Cause I'm wrong about everything. In an infinite universe, there are no perfect answers. Which means there are no right answers. Better and worse, but no "right." So everyone is wrong all the time. Including me. And every time you give a student freedom, there is a chance that she will come up with something that shifts the entire paradigm an order of magnitude closer to that unreachable perfection. That makes the student better. It makes you better, if you have the humility to learn from your own student. It makes the world better.
Two of my biggest epiphanies in martial arts came from mistakes. Misunderstanding instructions in one case and simply screwing up the footwork in another... and the product of those mistakes was ten times better (not exaggerating at all) than the 'right' way.
So if a student does misunderstand... they are adaptable, smart, tough, survivors. They will have a tendency to make the misunderstanding work. In doing so, they may change everything I think I know for the better. I'm okay with that.
Seven days in Minnesota is almost upon us:
Underneath it all, there is a key thought that might be immensely powerful, but I don't think the author even noticed.
That said, I'm pretty confident that anyone with a modicum of training in actual science would have been appalled by the book as I was... but it was recommended to me by a highly intelligent young man. So why aren't people given a solid education in critical thinking and the scientific method?
Second piece of the thought, stemming from a conversation with Marc MacYoung and touching on the worlds of politics and self defense, on Rotherham and gun control and a bureaucracy completely out of control.
As strange as it seems, I am coming to believe that there are some people, maybe many, who believe that rules actually exist. That when you write a law it actually changes the world. That when you forbid bullying in school, bullying will magically decrease. And magically is the operative word because there is nothing inherent in paper and ink to change people's behavior. Unenforced, rules only have power over the people who consciously agree to abide by them or those so brainwashed or superstitious that they, too believe the rules are real. Someone who believes that a "Keep Off The Grass" sign actually forces people not to walk on grass.
As such, these laws and rules and policies are simply complex spells. And like most magic, they only work on the people who believe (consciously or not) in magic. And making more and more rules has the horrific affect of controlling the people who would voluntarily control their own behavior while doing absolutely nothing for the few who won't. And, as in Rotherham, the priests of this religion get rewarded for doing the rituals correctly even if the bad guys actually gained power. Because energy going into casting spells isn't going into solving problems, no matter what the superstitious want to believe.
If you saw a lithic-technology native who had never contacted Western civilization before and he told you that he wore a cord woven of a red leaf to keep his mother healthy, you'd probably have some pretty condescending thoughts. You'd recognize the superstition and ignorance of sympathetic magic. So, tell me, do you ever wear a pink ribbon for breast cancer?
Like all sympathetic magic, the awareness campaigns give the feeling of doing something without actually putting in the effort and expense. Contribute money to research? Volunteer for hospice? Those are acts and they do something. Wear a ribbon or put a sign on your lawn? That's voodoo. Don't get me wrong, some people are making a hell of a living from running charity campaigns. So your superstition is serving somebody.
Visualizing world peace doesn't work. And it's obviously a stupid platitude, obviously ridiculous, obviously dependent on magic. But a bumper sticker that says "Support Our Troops"gives the actual troops zero support. And if you have that bumper sticker but talked your own kids out of signing up, I wish the hypocrisy would make your head explode.
Struck again with how robust the patterns are. Our ancestors in loincloths making sacrifices and cowering in their huts from the thunder-- that's still us. And we're still using the same tools, whether we realize it or not.
Taking everything out, ignoring the fact that 1400 girls were systematically victimized, ignoring any cultural or racial parameters, I want to focus on one very simple thing.
16 years. 1400 victims. Local government, social services, the police and the National Health Service knew about it. Only five arrests, as near as I can make out... until this news report broke.
This is the part I want to write about: The groups that did so little, the groups that even after they knew children were being victimized, and by doing nothing allowed hundreds of others be victimized, were praised. They were praised for their approach and focus and their collaboration and their 'best practices.'
Partner, if 'best practices' leave children to be injured, they aren't 'best.' They aren't even good.
There's form and there's function. If the form doesn't accomplish the function, it doesn't matter how perfect the form is, it is wrong. When a person or an organization focuses on the form to the exclusion of function, which appears to be the trend in all bureaucracies, they become useless. And in cases like this, actively evil.
If you have a test to promote your sergeants, but the people who score high on the test aren't significantly better than the ones who score low, your test is wrong. It is a failure. You are testing for something-- tests always test for something-- but it is not testing for what you believe it is.
If your academy curriculum is centered around what is measurable and not what a rookie needs, it is a tool of bureaucracy, not justice or even survival. And you are dooming students to injury and maybe death to appease the system. And it is a system. And when the system must be served more than the people, you get Rotherham.
It's the way of the world. It has become so ordinary that no one notices, or those that do, laugh. California requires MSDS for bricks. There are places where you can't legally make a straw bale house because no one has written code for them. On a daily level, the constant bureaucratic meddling is annoying or funny. Hideously expensive and wasteful. But we just move on, because it seems so normal.
But this is 1400 victimized children. It should be a slap in the face hard enough to make anyone and everyone rethink how their methods are measured.
Otherwise, the gods of bureaucracy will have their blood sacrifices.
If you and I ever collaborate, think twice before you give me the power to name things. The only reasons my kids aren't named Nifty and Swifty are because my wife has these things called "rules" about "proper behavior" and she enforces them and knows where I sleep. Long and short of it, if we're having a Violence Dynamics intensive seminar and no one tells me otherwise, I'm damn well calling it the VD Clinic.
This year's MNVD will be held October 13-19 at the Mermaid in Mound's View MN. They'll have a special hotel rate for us. It will be twenty-five blocks of training over seven days. You can attend the whole thing, the weekdays, the week-end, or individual sessions.
The instructors will be Kasey Keckeisen, local SWAT member, training coordinator, experienced martial artist; Marc MacYoung, one of the pioneers of the RBSD movement; and me.
The details and sign-ups are here:
I'm excited about this one. You're going to get a core dump of insights, tactics and philosophies from three perspectives-- experienced perspectives. This is the only PD I've worked with that is cool with civilians training with officers. No details, but one of the sessions will be shared with a local specialty team. And if you are a pro, it is all POST certified.
The only one that is likely to fill beyond capacity is the Sunday session, Advanced People Watching and Reading Terrain. We have to limit the group size to the point that security doesn't notice we're running a class, so people who sign up for the whole week will have preference on attending Sunday.
The Mermaid Entertainment and Events Center. 2200 Hwy 10Mounds View, MN 55112763-786-2000
Sign-ups and further details:
Long good talk with Erik Kondo last week about improving navigation on CRGI and many other things. Stay tuned on that, there are a couple of ongoing projects I need to write about soon. In the process we were talking about identifying good practices and practitioners, and I was balking.
"My idea of good may not be someone else's. There's a lot of really good stuff out there, particularly in the traditional arts, that is just misunderstood or missed by the instructors." I said.
"Good's hard to identify," Erik agreed, "But you can spot bad in a heartbeat."
You have no idea how much I hate arguing with people who are smarter than me. But at least I learn a lot.
So when validating a technique, deciding whether it will work and whether to teach it, three things immediately come to mind. There may be a lot of other ways to suck, but these are usually easy to see and are definitely failures.
1) Time framing. Everything you do takes time. The less time it takes, the more efficient it is. The longer it takes to get to the same point the less efficient it is. If the technique taught requires more time than exists, you have a time framing problem.
You will never dodge a sword strike with a back handspring. If I throw a jab at your chin within range, you will never get a hand from your hip in time to intercept it. If you have an eight move defense and counter to a single move attack, your attacker is eight times more efficient than you are. You lose. Even if the initial attack and the counter take the same time (or the technique has a slight edge) it probably won't make up for the action/reaction gap. If you are reacting, the opponent will have completed a certain percentage of the motion (maybe the whole attack) before you Observe, Orient and Decide and initiate your reaction.
There are a number of things that influence this. Telegraphing is a big one. In many cases, you can look like you are very fast or even telepathic if you are good at reading telegraphs. Almost everyone has unnecessary preparatory moves before they begin the real action. Almost as prevalent and much more damaging to the student is poor distancing. You can get away with almost anything if you insist that the attack begins from a half-step out of range. If your technique relies on that half-step, it simply won't work.
2) Brainwashing. You can look all over the internet for the videos of the chi masters making their students go dizzy by pointing fingers or knocking people down without touching them. Here's the deal. There is a thing called "victim grooming" where a predator takes time and effort, usually with a child, and raises that child to believe that being a victim is normal and to actively seek out abuse. The students of these chi-masters (and a lot of others) have been subjected to the same process. They have been trained to respond as if magic works or suffer cognitive dissonance and some painful rethinking.
Probably shouldn't have started with chimeisters because it makes it easy to pretend the lower levels of this don't exist. But a lot of them do. Sometimes it is purely mental "I know this technique works because it only takes twelve pounds of pressure to break a knee..." No it doesn't. Your knee can take twelve pounds all day. Twelve pounds moving at 100mph is a completely different problem.
Sometimes it is physical. If your technique only works on your own students, it doesn't work. If you are more likely to be injured by a beginner than an experienced practitioner, your system may be deliberately creating inefficient fighters. That's the technical term for "losers." If you're demonstrating a technique and the student steps back to give you plenty of time, subtly points at which fist she is about to use... sigh. Groomed victim.
Lastly, demos and seminars and you. Really easy to see other people being brainwashed. Much harder to grasp your own suggestibility. Almost all people are suggestible to a degree. You've all seen that yawns are contagious. That's one example. Everyone thinks they are resistant to suggestion, but that belief has, apparently, no correlation to one's actual suggestibility. And when you go to a seminar, your suggestibility is heightened. You have already decided to go to the seminar expressly because there is something about this instructor you admire. That lowers your skepticism. (And don't think a skeptical attitude is a defense, I've read many stage magicians who consider self-declared skeptics the easiest to fool). You will be in a crowd of others who feel the same way, triggering the human herd instinct. Sometimes accentuated by insisting that people come dressed traditionally (much harder to break ranks when everyone looks/dresses the same.) And the really good ones have techniques to pick out the most suggestible (or at least weed out the most resistant) so that the early demos go so well it becomes even harder to question or complain.
If the instructor tells students what is supposed to happen, whether three touches on a meridian will make a KO or that when a hand appears going for the face the body has no choice but to throw itself (and, yes, before you ask, I have heard both of those) the explanation is part of the technique.
Bottom line, if the bad guy is responsible for making the technique work, the technique doesn't work.
3) Mechanical advantage. Any good technique must have a mechanical advantage. It must have an element of leverage, structure or vector that gives it an edge over things applied with more power. You can only do a good sweep if there is enough distance from the sweeping foot and the shoulder crash. You need the leverage. My wife could never outmuscle me pulling her into a hug, but she can use her pointy little elbows to make it really hurt, pitting my strength against her structure and winning. If a fist is coming in and you try to stop it straight on you would have to be far more powerful than the person throwing the punch... but a slap to the side has the vector to redirect a massive difference in power.
Ideally, a good technique will have advantages in all three-- good structure applied with maximized leverage along an advantageous vector. And there is no rule that says a bad guy can't be better at all three elements than you. That's life.
Bottom line- unless there is clear mechanical advantage in a technique, it will only work against a smaller, weaker opponent. It will only work for a bad guy.
No matter how tested something is or under what conditions it has been tested, all you know is that you haven't found the failure point yet. But the failure point is out there. So is your stuff valid? That depends how far you have tested your stuff. There is a point where it will cease to work. And the uncertainty increases when it is not tested. When there is no way to validate a thing, humans seek validation instead.
You can't be 100% sure of very much. 1+1=2 with high reliability when applied to rocks. It's less reliable when applied to rabbits. When you can't be sure (validity) people want to feel sure (validation).
How does one go about validation? They like be told by other people that they are good. There are a lot of rituals and trappings to it, but that's the essence. A black belt. Certificates and trophies. Creating "Councils of Masters" who cross-certify each other as "Masters." In the RBSD world, you have instructors who are combing academic abstracts looking for studies that appear to justify their own beliefs or discredit a competitor's. Everybody wants a guy in a white coat with a PhD after his name to validate their approach. The academic researcher takes the place of the shaman is this quest in this culture.
And that last, science, isn't bad. If you are scientifically literate (understand experimental design, the scientific method and the basics of statistical analysis as a start) and read the actual article, not just the abstract. And don't cherry-pick too hard.
But the rest aren't bad, either. Sort of. I want validation too. My validation comes from the respect of people that I respect. Hmmmm. Sort of. I respect almost everyone as a matter of courtesy. But when I look at my closest friends, I'm a little humbled to be accepted in their company. But it can be a fine line between a group of operators and former operators telling war stories and and a cross-certifying Master's Council. I'm fairly positive that each of those "masters" convince themselves that the others on the council are extraordinary and being allowed in is a compliment (even if one Hall of Fame award was offered to every member of a certain martial arts forum one year. Sigh.)
There are certificates that mean a lot to me because of who they came from and how they were earned. And I know there are, or used to be, certificates that came in a sheaf with a box of DVDs all pre-signed by the "master" so that you could fill them out and show potential students your hundreds of certifications.
And trophies-- you win an olympic judo medal or a UFC title and you are one tough son of a bitch, dedicated and skilled. Or you can just go to an event that has three times as many categories as competitors and come home with a pocketful of gold medals from events where you had no opposition. The good and worthless trophies look just the same on the wall.
It can look like the goal is to be strong enough not to need outside validation, to be so sure that you don't need other people telling you how good you are. But that doesn't work either, because some of the worst instructors I have seen had a profoundly over-developed ego. Someone who truly feels superior usually sucks (Dunning-Kruger) and are most likely to reject outside opinions yet most likely to need them.
Sometimes I think about offering a certification program in thinking for yourself. The catch being that if you want a certificate in autonomy from someone else, you don't get it. You don't get the certificate or the concept.