Long ago, somewhere in the mists of time, Kasey Keckeisen, a SWAT leader, sniper and training coordinator thought it would be really cool to have a couple of his favorite SD writers come out to his neck of the woods and play. One was Marc MacYoung. The other was me. Kasey was an experienced officer and a lifetime martial artist, so he wasn't just a host, he was a third instructor.
It was the seminar where we unveiled the first public ConCom class. Civilians got to train with the local SWAT in environmental fighting. It became an annual thing. It's also why I am no longer allowed to name things. (Come on, if you are doing a workshop on Violence Dynamics, you'd call it the VD Clinic too, right?) Over the years, people who originally came as students have stepped up to teach sections-- Randy King taught counter assault and Dillon Beyer* taught power generation last year in Minnesota, and Querencia Fitness did classes on functional strength and training despite age and injuries.
This all happened in Minnesota...
Last year, Keelin suggested a Bay Area version. I assumed (my mistake) Kasey and Marc wouldn't be available. Kasey is a full time officer with limited vacation time, Marc had a host of other concerns. So I floated the idea to two of my favorite people, Terry Trahan and Kathy Jackson. They were in. Then miracles happened and Marc and Kasey could make it as well. So this is what we have:
A six-day seminar covering physical skills including: leverage, power, targeting, fighting by touch, using the environment, ground survival...
Practical skills like ConCom and people watching in the field...
And a few lectures, like threat assessment and legal articulation...
And even a range day, led by Kathy Jackson
Five instructors, and maybe some guests. I know of people flying in from Sweden (Toby!) The UK (Anna!) and Cypress (Dan!) There will be separate OG classes by request... (If you know what OGs are in this context and you are one, contact me for special pricing.)
And the sixth day-- people watching. Small groups. You get to see how a sniper sees architecture and space, how a former criminal sizes up marks, some other stuff I won't go into here.
Keelin has set up a website with more details and sign-ups.
This will be fun.
* Look at the VioDy NextGen on that link.
In the martial arts and self-defense, you hear a lot of crap about what will and won't work in the "real world." Everything is as real as it is, and no more. All things are what they are, and all only extrapolate so far. Written about all that before.
So everything happens in the real world, whether it's on the mat, in a cage, around a poker table, over a chessboard, or in a mass holding cell. None of this is happening in the virtual world. (Yes, I know, you can play video versions of all of these, quit being cute and pay attention.)
Here's the thought. Instead of defining what the "real" world is, look at all the things we say aren't the real world and you notice that they all have the same things in common. When someone says, "that's not the real world," what they mean is a place or endeavor where:
- You know the rules and
- The rules are the way the game is really played
This is a subconscious distinction for people. If it's predictable, it's not the real world. If it's predictable, it doesn't count. And of course it all does count, but only so far. I'm not arguing for the truth of this, mind you, just pleased to have found the words for a nearly universal unconscious distinction.
This does have some implications.
Even in games with rules, things are never predictable, but the rules are there to limit the unpredictability. In a match, no matter the sport, you can't be sure what your opponent will do, but you can be pretty sure of what he won't do. The boxer won't kick, the the judoka won't punch you in the face, the fencer won't pull a gun.
We teach children through games with rules and the children are punished for cheating. Because we want them to grow up and not be cheaters. We want to condition them to believe that cheating is punished, because your brain equates punished with "doesn't work." This allows them to get along with other adults. This keeps people from screwing each other over. It also makes them patsies when someone else understands that the rules are artificial.
Yes. Artificial. Rules are not real, they are magical spells used to control the behavior of others. And like magic, rules only work on believers.
Because we start kids on rules and social conditioning so young, they all go into the real world carrying around a personal list of largely unconscious personal rules. Rules that control and limit their options, artificial restraints on behavior that can be used against them by anyone who doesn't share the same internal rules.
The fifth implication. The real world is the place where, often, cheating isn't punished, but rewarded. This is the elephant in the room. Cheating works. In the real world.
Unless someone better makes it not work.
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For a very brief moment in the late Sixties I toyed around with the idea that Atlantis was a real, historic place, and that it was the source of wisdom, knowledge, and unbelievable technological marvels. The inspiration (or the blame) for this interest was the hit song "Atlantis" by Donovan.
The song starts off with a long, spoken word segment in which Donovan talks about the god-like beings who populated the island of Atlantis, and who, just before the island was destroyed by natural disasters, went out to "all corners of the Earth."
It was fun using my imagination, trying to see in my mind's eye what Atlantis looked like and what marvelous inventions they had discovered. But, here's the thing, I was a young teenager, just goofing around. I did not seriously believe that Donovan's song was based on factual evidence. I knew that it was all make believe.
Unfortunately, not everyone has come to this realization.
Take David Hatcher Childress for example. Childress, a "maverick archeologist" who fancies himself a "real life Indiana Jones" wrote the following about Atlantis:
"In the book A Dweller On Two Planets, first dictated in 1884 by Phylos the Thibetan to a young Californian named Frederick Spencer Oliver, as well as in a 1940 sequel, An Earth Dweller Returns, there is mention of such inventions and devices as air conditioners to overcome deadly and noxious vapors; airless cylinder lamps, tubes of crystal illuminated by the night side forces; electric rifles, guns employing electricity as a propulsive force (rail-guns are similar, and a very new invention); mono-rail transportation; water generators, an instrument for condensing water from the atmosphere; and the Vailx, an aerial ship governed by forces of levitation and repulsion."
He's not alone. Lots of people believe that wise men from ancient times were way ahead of us in technology and enlightenment. Or maybe they weren't wise "men" after all. Perhaps they were aliens.
That's essentially what Raelianism teaches. This movement, philosophy, religion (take your pick) teaches that life on our planet was created long ago by extraterrestrial scientists, or "Elohim." Great men of the past and prophets such as Jesus or Buddha were Elohim.
And don't forget Erich von Daniken, he of the bestselling book Chariots of the Gods, which "proved" that ancient astronauts had visited earth and influenced culture and technology.
There is a general belief--among many people who should know better--that we here in the present are merely rediscovering what our much wiser ancestors had already discovered. These marvelous ancestors were smarter, wiser, and nobler than we are now. They lived in peace and in harmony with nature. They communicated telepathically and had figured out how to rid themselves of war. They were healthy, and they lived long, enriched lives in comfort and splendor. They were sophisticated when it came to advanced mathematics and science, and they may have harnessed unique energy sources beyond our current ability to understand.
Sadly, they were all wiped out. Floods, earthquakes, disease, what have you, erased all but the most vague clues and hints. Seems they couldn't predict the future or figure out how to survive catastrophes.
Looking back to the past for clues on how to face the future is not all bad. We could all learn a thing or two about survival from ancestors who faced down hungry saber tooth tigers and hunted powerful mastodons with primitive weapons.
But the people of the past didn't have all the answers. They managed to perilously cling to life against man and beast, but they didn't know diddly squat about germs and hygiene. If they were severely hurt in battle or mauled taking down game they most likely didn't live very long afterwards. Dirty water and infection probably killed off a good number of the members of any given tribe.
Doesn't matter. There are plenty of people who believed that our early ancestors had a much better diet than we do now, and that they were fitter and healthier and didn't have to bother with weight lifting, gym memberships and treadmills. There is some element of truth to this. When they left the cave each morning to head off to work they weren't sure if they'd make it back home safely or end up as an item on the buffet table.
But we have benefits they couldn't even begin to imagine. We have the knowledge of science and modern medicine to help us navigate through the dangers of modern life. We know how to observe, gather evidence, and use experimentation to figure out problems. We don't have to keep looking to the past to try to figure out how to handle the future.
And that brings us to my point. Shakespeare, in The Tempest, Act 2, scene 1, writes:
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge.
When most people read this they focus on the three words "past is prologue." They think that the past foretells the future and that if you really want to know what's what or what's next you need to look back on what's already happened.
I disagree. I like what enote says in explaining this scene, "What's already happened merely sets the scene for the really important stuff, which is the stuff our greatness will be made on."(*)
Those people who think that the so-called paleo diet is the way to go are misled. Sure, eating less processed foods may be beneficial. And who could argue with a diet that emphasizes eating more greens? But trying to eat like a paleolithic human misses the fact that a lot of evolution has occurred in the interim, not only to the plants and animals we like to eat but also to our own bodies.
Or to those martial artists who are always trying to figure out what the great men of the past knew about fighting, I want to (and I can't believe I'm actually saying this) tell them what Queen Elsa sang in the movie "Frozen": "Let it go, let it go! Turn away and slam the door...it's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through."
So, forget antiquated, outdated training methods. LET IT GO!
First up, KATA, those pre-arranged sequences of complicated, symbolic and even "secret" moves assembled by famous karateka of the past, or those elaborate 'flow drills' used by a lot of modern 'combatives' instructors?
Let it go. Let your training come alive, and add improvisation. Think in terms of loosely organized action sequences that have built in flexibility and adaptability. I have nothing against patterned responses. They help the practitioner to develop muscle memory. But a little goes a long way. If you must practice patterns, at least make sure you don't practice unrealistic moves that'll get you killed. By the way? They kinda sorta look silly.
ONE-STEP SPARRING, where the attacker throws a punch and then freezes while the defender goes to town with elaborate responses?
Let it go. Introduce reality into your training. Embrace resistance, chaos, and unpredictability. Attackers don't stand still. You won't be able to execute flawless movements in the heat of battle. There are too many unknowns. Wake up and drink the coffee.
BREAKING, where the practitioner takes approximately fifteen minutes to set up punch or a kick with people who hold a piece or a stack of pieces of wood, or carefully arranges a group of bricks or blocks of ice, so that he or she can demonstrate precision and power?
Let it go. We're no longer impressed. It'll be unlikely that you can call your shots in a real fight. Look, William Tell, you probably won't have an opportunity to hit a stationary target.
HOLLYWOOD FIGHT SEQUENCES, which are elaborately planned and choreographed, action-filled movements?
Let it go. Okay, keep them in the movies. They're lots of fun, and, when they're good, the move the story line along and help develop the characters. But trying to do them as part of a demo team at the mall is kinda like false advertising. No one fights like that. Fighting is not a paint-by-numbers, 1-2-3, A-B-C sequence. It's dirty. It's violent. It definitely ain't pretty. If you want to be in the spotlight, join the cast at the dinner theater.
FUNNY SELF-DEFENSE SKITS, which are seen more and more at strip-mall dojos, in which people use props and costumes and silly scenarios to demonstrate, say, a granny defending herself against a gang of thugs?
Let it go. Please. It's embarrassing. And, worse, it's not cute, and it's not even funny.
Let it go. It makes no sense to be moving around and throwing punches and kicks and then stopping the action so that some judges can interpret the force and accuracy of the fighters trajectory and determine if the technique would have (if it was allowed to make contact) injured or even killed the opponent. It's often subjective, interrupts the flow of the action, and bears no resemblance to real fighting. I hope I have made my point.
Let it go. This was so 70s, and like that other fad of the 70s, DISCO, it needs to be swept under the rug and erased from our collective memories. Wanna twirl something? Get a baton and join a marching band.
Let it go. There's scant evidence they ever existed. Even if they did they didn't know magic. They couldn't control minds or disappear in a cloak of invisibility. Want to become a warrior and own the night? Join the Army Rangers!
Let it go. Like the ninja, there isn't much evidence to prove they were real. There is no denying that the guys who dress up and put on shows at tourist attractions are talented as hell. Fit, acrobatic, and amazing. But, it's not real fighting. They bend arrows with their neck muscles. They try to drill holes in their skulls. This probably rarely happens in a real fight.
CAMOUFLAGED COMBATIVES WARRIORS?
Let it go. I know lots of guys who like to call themselves warriors. They carry lots of knives, like to teach weapon disarms, and go around in public with guns on their hips. They seem to love violence, and are always itching for a fight. Like to brag about their altercations. Have long stories about brushes with the law, or barfights with bikers, or being "elite." But, here's the thing--I always wonder why they don't enlist. Heck, the Marines are probably still looking for a few good men. Raise your hand, say the oath, and make Sam your Uncle.
PRESSURE-POINT "CHI" MASTERS?
Let it go. I have long said ix-nay on the i-chay. I have railed against the charlatans who con people out of their hard-earned money, promising to teach magical, mystical, mysterious techniques to render an attacker unconscious. They have been debunked, but the do not care. They always find some gullible person who wants to believe in 'the force' to fight real or imagined enemies. They show how to use a kiai to stop an attacker dead in his tracks. Or they reveal a secret set of techniques (known to ancient Egyptians or the people of Atlantis) that can cripple a bad guy with little or no force. They are experts at packaging up and selling exquisite bullshit.
Let it go. They believe the world is coming to an end. They believe in natural or man-made catastrophes that will wipe out modern civilization. They may believe in a Biblical Apocalypse or a Zombie plague. They hoard supplies and stockpile weapons. They plan for bugging out when the shit hits the fan. And mostly they're just plain nuts. Don't get me wrong. Preparation makes sense. Having a plan is a sensible idea. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are real worries. An asteroid or comet strike on the earth is feasible. The explosion of a super volcano, like the one under Yellowstone, is not so much an IF as a WHEN. But some of these people WANT it to happen, yearn for the days when they will be among the living, eking it out, battling the neighbors. Avoid them, well, like the plague.
It's hard to imagine now, but waaaaaay back in 1957, a small, beeping, spherical-shaped object scared the absolute heck out of Americans. Weighing only 184 pounds, a little less than a manhole cover, it was about the size of an inflatable beach ball. Nevertheless it caused considerable paranoia and panic as it hurtled across the nighttime sky.
The object that caused so much consternation was Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite. While it remained in orbit it circled the globe every 98 minutes, passing over America seven times a day.
It was launched by America's Cold War enemy at the time, the Soviet Union, and it appeared that the Soviets now had the upper hand in the arms race. Thus some people thought it just might drop "THE BOMB," as it was known back then, on their heads.
Of course nothing of the sort ever happened, but for awhile, the fear was tangible. But there was a silver lining amidst this troubling time. Because of the fear and foreboding stirred up by this little beeping object, there was a newly realized interest in technology. What was sorely needed was a reformed educational system that emphasized mathematics, science and engineering. More of a revolution than a mere reform, U.S. school children began learning physics and chemistry with a profound sense of playing catch-up, and the slide rule and the pocket protector became more and more ubiquitous.
Enter New Math
I'd wager that the name Nicolas Bourbaki is unfamiliar to 99% of Americans. Most of us couldn't pick out Bourbaki's face from a group photo. And yet Bourbaki was key in helping to formulate and systematize mathematics in a profoundly new, and perhaps frustrating, way.
Science historian Amir Aczel called Bourbaki "the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century," who changed how we thought about mathematics and as the person who "was responsible for the emergence of 'New Math' that swept through American education in the middle of the century." Aczel went on to say the Bourbaki helped to lay the foundation for modern mathematics with his towering, seminal work.
But here's what's so weird--the genius Bourbaki, author of dozens of books, didn't actually exist. Instead "Nicolas Bourbaki" was the nom de plume used by a secret society of mathematicians who attempted to reorganize, clarify, systematize, and modify what they perceived to be outdated practices in the teaching of mathematics. No one past the age of 50 was allowed to enter or stay in this society so as to prevent old, antiquated ways of the past from solidifying.
Was it a success? Depends, really, on who you ask. Straightdope.com, (one of my favorite sites, whose primary goal is to "fight ignorance"), says that the new math of the sixties was "disruptive, despised, and moderately beneficial." In fact, they say that it is still around although incognito.
Traditionally mathematics, especially at the primary school level, was taught by "telling" students what to do. Students would memorize multiplication tables and learn math concepts by rote. There was a lot of busy work where students would complete tasks dozens and dozens of times. No one, it seems, really took the time to instill a new way of thinking mathematically. And that's where new math came in. Hoping that students would begin thinking differently about the language of math and enjoy a sense of discovery, new math was more abstract than practical.
And, by and large, parents and students universally hated it.
I can relate. In my early years I was taught using new math learning concepts, and I struggled for years to absorb more than an elementary mathematical knowledge. My dad, who never even completed high school, could run circles around me in arithmetic and practical mathematics, and he could use a slide rule like nobody's business.
It wasn't until much later that I had a teacher who helped me to get past my math anxiety and who helped me to begin thinking in terms of mathematics as a form of symbolic language. In some ways I would say that this teacher actually applied new math principles to help me. Maybe it was a NEW new math approach. At any rate I slowly began to enjoy rather than dread numbers.
Enter Martial Arts
Phew. All of what I have said about math, new math, and a novel way of thinking and teaching brings me to one of my favorite subjects: Martial arts.
For most of my almost five decades of martial arts and combatives training I have long felt that the instruction of these skills is antiquated, rigid and stuck in the past. Similar to what the Bourbaki society did with mathematics, I have attempted to bring a new, fresh approach to learning the skills and skill-sets of fighting. That's why I created the P.U.M.A. (Practical Urban Martial Arts) method.
So, you ask, what the heck is P.U.M.A.? First of all P.U.M.A. is not a style. Instead it is a methodology, one that uses a rational, logical, progressive and common sense approach. The first word, "practical," pretty much says it all. Everything about what I teach makes the information as practical, useful, user friendly, efficient and effective as possible.
Some people don't like the next word, "urban," thinking that it leaves out those who live in the country or the suburbs or who might inexplicably find themselves needing to fight and survive in, say, a rain forest or on a glacier. Notice I am not using the word "urbane," which means polished or smooth and has a connotation of pretentiousness.
What, then, do I mean by urban? Well, let me tell you first about one of the most familiar street cons in New Orleans. There you are, staggering around after drinking your third slushy hurricane, when you are approached by a charming kid who offers to make what appears to be a simple, straightforward wager. He says he'll bet you $10 that he can tell you where you got your shoes. Knowing full well that you live nowhere near NOLA and that, in your drunken state you can't even remember where you live, much less bought your shoes, you take the bet. He then tells you that you got your shoes "on your feet on Bourbon street." Oh well, a bet's a bet, and you'll look like a schmuck if you don't part with the money.
So, when I use the word urban, I'm really talking about where you got your shoes. Since over half of the world's population now lives in urban areas, there's a good bet that this also applies to people who train in martial arts/combatives. We, most of us, live in villages, towns, cities or mega-city cosmopolitan areas. We go to school, go to work, shop and dine mostly in urban areas. That's all I mean when I use the word. We need to train for circumstances which we're likely to encounter, where we got our shoes so to speak, thus urban training.
Then there's the oft-repeated term "martial arts." Some people hate this word. They feel like it has too much in common with strip-mall dojos that are all about black-belt-clubs, demo teams, board breaking, striped belts, and a constant cycle of fee-based testing. And sure, much of the world now associates all martial arts with a loud, cringe-inducing "KEE YAH" shout and the universal code, a karate chop.
Arguably there has been a gradual shift over the last decade or so to respected, effective, highly-disciplined, multi-sourced fighting skills all under the "mixed martial arts" tent. So I think the term generally has a positive, even wildly popular, connotation.
Martial Arts' New Math
So P.U.M.A., or better still, the new and improved training methodology at the heart of P.U.M.A., is like the new math response to Sputnik I. As the information age now has top-notch skills available at the click of a mouse, it is important to have an approach to learning that goes beyond the mere acquisition and rote replication and memorization of information. What is needed is an understanding of the theory of personal aggression, a conceptual grasp of the principles of combatives, and a method of acquiring and adapting skills in order to modify behavior towards progressive objectives with lasting, measurable and experiential benefits.
How is this done? First of all, we follow the 3P approach to learning. Keep in mind that some skills are solitary in nature with self-development as one of the primary goals. Learning to paint, for example, or learning how to play the piano. Can one actually say they have learned everything there is to know about art or music by taking a few lessons? No. One could spend a lifetime, nay, multiple lifetimes (see the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day") in learning all the intricacies and developing all of the knowledge and skill available. All most people want, non-professionals anyway, is a modicum of understanding and a competent skill level to be able to play a piano or paint a canvas for enjoyment without looking like a doofus. One may sign up for martial arts classes with this goal, self-development, in mind, and martial arts delivers.
Some skills are participatory in nature. Take tennis for example or billiards. These activities require skill; however, they are generally played with others. There are rule-based norms associated with these activities so that the individuals know what to expect. The skills and supplemental knowledge acquired to improve these skills are generally about improving one's performance. Competition, it is said, breeds competence. Martial arts can be approached this way, and again martial arts delivers.
A few skills are improvisational in nature. Often there is a sense of risk also associated with these skills. Take mountain climbing for example. One wouldn't dream of tackling a cliff face without adequate preparation, long hours of training and practice, and the right equipment. Even then the dangers are real and should not be approached with a trivial, devil-may-care attitude. It is my contention that combatives, the personal protection aspect of martial arts, in fact the heart and soul of ancient warfare arts, is also driven by improvisation and planted firmly in risk and potential danger.
In Part II I will share my philosophy of the training methodology that I have used to teach hundreds of soldiers and civilians over the last several decades.
Another one came up last week. I'd been asked to advice a young man on designing a defensive tactics program for a certain profession. Have to be a little obtuse here because there are programs that exist for this profession, but no one (and I mean no one) who actually works in that profession is happy with the current programs. The programs I have seen and heard about are classic "liability reduction" training, designed for the express purpose of keeping organizations from being sued, regardless of whether what is taught actually works.
I'd been thinking about it for weeks leading up to the meeting. These are people doing important things with small budgets, a lot of scrutiny, and very limited training time. And whatever program comes out of this, if one does, will have to be effective (or it's not worth my time) but also palatable to the administrations, the media and the public.
Snapped awake the morning of the meeting. When a problem is hard to solve, it's often because you are trying to solve the wrong problem, asking the wrong question or asking the right question in the wrong way. My contacts had been always talked about managing aggressive behavior, and all of their programs failed against assaultive behavior. Duh.
So the triple for this one:
- Managing aggressive behavior would be the tools, verbal prevention before, verbal and possible physical redirection during. Qualitatively different from...
- Managing assaultive behavior. Under attack, your solution won't be verbal. Always good to augment physical responses with verbal skills, both to direct the threat and for the benefit of witnesses. But when someone is trying to stab you, you don't have the time to try to calm his mindset. The third though...
- Managing destructive behavior. Including self-destructive, but the difference between Assaultive and destructive is the focus. No matter how violent someone is being, you have an entirely different suite of options if he's focused on someone or something else.
More came up in the brainstorming session-- Gordon Graham's discretionary time concept and how it applies. Training methodologies for improvising and adapting under pressure. Power dynamics that will have to modeled in the class before they can be mirrored in the mission. An ethical framework that ties a lot together. Gotta love curriculum development.----------------------------------------------------------------
Lots of stuff coming up:
InFighting in Edmonton this weekend (Mar 12-13)InFighting in London, ON next weekend.How to Run Scenarios at Kore Krav Maga in Ashburn, VA (April 9-10)VioDy West in Oakland (This will be a big one!) April 12-17 Plus Alaska and Pennsylvania.
Kata can pose interesting training conundrums.
Some kata are very evenly weighted on their use of both sides of the body for the majority of the form, while others can be very singular in their distribution of movement.
In general this does not bother most practitioners; after all for those that follow the line work model of training for their kihon, all seemingly core techniques are trained equally in both sides. The same is also generally true of kumite drills.
So is there any benefit in mirroring kata on occasion? Keeping the same order of techniques but stepping out on the opposite side to normal and continuing in the same vein throughout the whole form?
I believe there is.
Although I prefer to work my kihon through impact training drills with partners rather than line work, my kumite drills are formed directly from my bunkai for the core kata I practice. In theory therefore I am practicing a version of every movement from the kata on both sides. Surely there should be no need therefore for me to mirror my kata?
Reality is quite different.
In initial practice certain movements feel unnatural.
This applies less to common core movements such as Gedan Barai, Shuto Uke etc and more to those little hand and arm transitions or turns that are not always found in line work and yet form such an important part of good application. I can do these movements with a partner, but in solo training they feel forced, less comfortable, and that tells me that more practice is needed. The solo training has given me a form of feedback that my paired training has not: I am weaker on the other side.
The transmission of the kata on one side only does not mean that is the only way to practice it. It is not practical to teach the form on both sides on a regular basis. To do so would result in an undue focus on solo training time that is inappropriate in a combative discipline.
Switching sides in the kata in class is not an attempt to fill time, or to be perverse. It is a worthwhile exercise in highlighting where we are weaker, what we don’t know and what we cannot do. It is something that we should attempt to replicate in our own training rather than solely under the supervision of our instructor.
The mirror not only shows what is there but also reveals what is missing.
"Anything that happens, happens.Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again."Douglas Adams
As a combatives instructor I have used a familiar mantra for many years:
How you practice is how you'll perform. How you rehearse is how you'll react.
What this is saying is just common sense--one's training should be as close to the real thing as possible. It's the principle that reminds us to "begin with the end in mind."
I rarely encounter people who have a different viewpoint. In fact most will give a hearty 'amen' to the concept. And yet, I see it all the time where their training bears no resemblance whatsoever to what it is they want to achieve.
Quite often over the years I have used the concept of the flight simulator to explain the rehearsal/reaction principle. I call it the 'fight simulator' model of training.
Think of a modern flight simulator. It's an expensive, highly technical piece of equipment that allows a high fidelity of training, or a "verisimilitude of simulation and transfer effectiveness." (*)
In a state-of-the-art simulator a pilot practices take offs, landings, handling emergencies such as foul weather and equipment failures, and learns procedures, situation awareness, perceptual-motor skills, and how to deal with various physiological factors. The trainee is forced to adapt and make decisions in challenging and demanding scenarios which look, feel and react just like the real thing, and the level of difficulty can be increased as needed. In my courses I call this principle PIC or Progressively Introduced Chaos. In PIC, as the trainee becomes more skilled, the pressures keep pace.
Video games understand this concept, and each iteration of game play becomes more and more challenging, demanding a reduction in reaction time, bigger bosses, and an enhanced sense of danger.
In a feature about undefeated (and unknown) bare-knuckle fighting champion Bobby Gunn, Men's Journal Magazine (April 2016), quotes Gunn who is on his way to a no-frills, hardcore gym that smells like sweat. "It's a bad world, my friend," says Gunn. "Thank God for my upbringing, my hard times. You see how I shine when I have to shine?"
I think it often comes down to BEING versus DOING. A martial artist practices certain actions over and over. He or she fulfills the doing aspect of training. But it is the being aspect that is also important, perhaps the most critical. Being able to call into action learned skills in an unprovoked, unexpected emergency self protection scenario is ultimately what combatives training is all about.
Unfortunately too many instructors think of the martial arts as nothing but learning a series or a sequence of very difficult motor skills. They see themselves as golf pros who must create in their students the perfect swing. Or they are like a piano teacher who makes a student practice scales ad nauseam (literally, in Latin, "to the point of nausea").
What I am most definitely NOT saying is that skill training is unimportant. On the contrary, learning skills to maximize efficiency and efficacy, to remove extraneous motion, and to improve timing, accuracy, speed and power is critical. So, learning, practicing and perfecting a skill is important; however, there is an element of back-and-forth, call-and-response, extemporaneous improvisation that must also be considered.
Reality, ultimately, should be the most important consideration in training. In famed sci-fi writer Douglas Adam's novel "Mostly Harmless," there is a problem with a space craft's software. "Something, somewhere, had gone terribly wrong," he wrote. "At every level, vital instructions were missing, and the instructions about what to do in the event of discovering that vital instructions were missing, were also missing." Because of this glitch the space craft is not reacting correctly to a dangerous situation. What was needed was a major reboot, and a return to the original software.
If one's training rarely considers reality, then what is needed is a major reboot.
I wrote about DV as an example of taxonomies some time ago.
Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are both different, but they get to the same place, seeing people as tools or toys to be used. And the old saw that "there are many paths to the top of the mountain" ignores the fact that there are actually many mountains, with many different points of view and the path you choose will change how you see the view more than the elevation.
I do believe some people are born unable to see that other people are real. It's an emotional thing and there is a sliding scale to it. At the extreme end, this is like a video game and other people are just pixels. Slightly less intense, many criminals don't feel shame. They just don't get it (See Fleisher's Beggars and Thieves for some corroboration). About half of my friends feel "trust" as an emotion and the others see it as a decision, but with no feeling associated. Which leads me to believe that it is probably possible to scale people's emotional palette.
That was a bit of an aside.
I believe some people are born sociopaths, and essentially don't have the capacity to develop an emotional palette that includes compassion or empathy. I believe a larger number have the capacity but it was never developed-- Babies are born inherently selfish and egocentric and must be taught that other people have feelings just like them. If that teaching fails, the child will be heartless. Sociopath? Functionally, but a very different mechanism.
And one can be placed in an environment where heartlessness is the only effective survival strategy. Humans are adaptable, and even people who will not be heartless on their own behalf can become heartless if that is the only way to protect or feed their children. It's rare, fortunately, and almost all of society is set up to prevent this. And the older and more entrenched you might be in your early socialization, the harder it will be to actually act... but in an environment where ruthlessness is necessary to survival, the survivors will be ruthless.
So, rambling as that was, three ways to get to almost anything. And none of those three ways are separate, they all interact:
Nature, socialization and selection.
- If you have a genetic gift, you can be very fast.
- If you are raised in a society where speed is rewarded and slowness punished, your childhood games will be based on developing speed. You'll be faster than someone with similar genetics raised differently.
- And if all the slow kids die, the surviving kids will be fast.
For fighting or combat or making friends-- some have the right genetic mix of physical and mental attributes. Some learned. And some adapted because they had no choice.
For good things and bad things. That has a lot of implications for us as trainers, voters, people. It's not a single lens, not one size fits all. Do we want to train survivors? Selection doesn't do that, it weeds out the ones who need training most. Do we want to fix crime or any social problem? Eugenics, education and social welfare are three historic attempts to do that, each aimed at one of the three paths.