“There are no winners in real games.”
The players were apprehensive. A new head coach is always a weird time on any football team. But everyone on the team knew, after the last several dismal seasons, that getting a new coach was inevitable.
Every new coach has his own ways of doing things. Different drills, different plays, different emphasis. A player who was a star on last year's team may not get the new coach's approval, so everything was uncertain.
The team had filled up the bleachers on the practice field awaiting the new guy. They sat around joking and discussing the latest rumors they'd heard.
Then they heard the sound of a gong. They all looked up, and the new coach came out of the field house and onto the field. He didn't look like the other coaches they'd had. He had no whistle and no cap. His loose fitting, flowing uniform looked like it was made out of satin. He had a large, old fashioned boom box, playing some kind of soothing, new age music that sounded like flutes and drums and voices chanting.
"Everyone, line up!" commanded the new guy. "Line up in rank and file, straight lines! No talking!"
"I am Mr. Beckworth, your new football instructor. Don't call me coach. Call me Mr. Beckworth."
"Everyone be seated." He nodded to his assistant on the sidelines who turned the music down slightly.
"I have been brought in because this team has been struggling for some time. It has lost its vision, its passion. I am here to give this team, each member of this team, a new vision, a new way of doing things.
"You have all focused on the physical for far too long--lifting weights, running, playing a very physical game. And, let me state the obvious here, you have also been losing. I'm here to help you develop a new type of strength--your inner strength.
"Forget what you know. As the old masters say, empty your cup. You will all start from scratch. You will learn a new way to breathe, a new way to stretch and move, a new way to connect with other players. You will discover that we are all conduits of the energy of the universe, and that with proper breathing, correct posture, and the right amount of focus, concentration and relaxation, we can tap into that unlimited power.
"First, this game is not about victory over others. QUIET! As I was saying, it is not about victory over others, it is about victory over one's self, one's ego. It is about letting go, releasing all desire for winning...I SAID QUIET! This team has been so focused on 'winning' that it has forgotten what this game is all about. This game is about honor. It is about integrity and courage. The game is about conquering one's weaknesses from within.
"This team will learn a new game, a MENTAL game, a game that is no longer focused on contact and pain. A game of learning to blend with the energy of the other team. A game of cooperation and harmony.
"We will practice long sequences of pre-selected movements. These movements have been designed to encompass all of the moves you will ever need on this field. The sequences have been passed down from master to student, generation after generation. These sequences are complete. You will neither add to nor subtract from these sequences. Every possible play has been gathered into these sequences, and each movement is very exact with strict standards.
"Once you learn these sequences, practicing them not dozens of times, not hundreds of times, but literally thousands of times, we may even work the sequences in cooperation with a partner. We will move step by step through each sequence. Slowly at first, and then faster. You will follow these sequences step by step, and move by move with no deviation. From time to time I will reveal to you the specialized techniques contained within these sequences.
"You will not need to think. I do not want thinking on my football field, is that clear?
"We're all going to learn a new phrase: Honor, Integrity, Courage, Conquering Self! The self will want to win. The ego will want to hurt others. But we will conquer the self. We will defeat the enemy that is the ego.
"Everyone stand up...stand up nice and tall and straight. Say it after me...HONOR, INTEGRITY, COURAGE, CONQUERING SELF."
The team mumbled their way through the new mantra.
"NO! Say it loud and strong...HONOR, INTEGRITY, COURAGE, CONQUERING SELF!
"There, that's better. Okay, now let's work on breathing. Everyone lie down, legs straight. Put your palm on your abdomen. Feel the air move in and out...the old masters call this 'belly breathing' because your chest doesn't rise and fall with each breath, the abdomen does. Breathe in, breathe out. The abdomen rises and falls. Keep your palm on your belly. Feel it rise and fall with each breath you take. Listen to the tranquil music. Rise and fall, in and out. Breathe to the rhythm of the music. Let the universe share with you its benevolent power, its unlimited energy."
The session lasted for an hour. Each player had slowly figured out how to breathe correctly or at least how to fake it good enough to satisfy Mr. Beckworth. Some light stretching followed the breathing, all set to the same, gentle music.
Later, as the session ended, Zack, last year's quarterback, was walking off the field with big old Denny, one of the players on the defensive line.
"Well Denny, what d'ya think about Coach, er I mean, Mr. Beckworth?" asked Zack.
"I'm afraid it's gonna be a long season, my friend," said Denny, shaking his head, looking off in the distance at nothing particular, "a very very long season."
THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL, THE FALLACY OF SELF-HELP
AND THE IMPORTANCE OF LUCK
“Martha: Truth or illusion; you don't know the difference.
George: No, but we must carry on as though we did.
― Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“The whole thing's illusion,
and there's nothing wrong with that. It's what people want from us. It's what they expect.”
― Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
I Sorta Blame Disney
Most of us, without realizing it, use wishful thinking in our daily lives. We don't usually call it that of course. Instead we give it fancier names: Visualization, positive mental attitude, following our dreams, optimism, manifesting our desires, owning our destiny, faith, positive thinking, or even the law of attraction.
Mark Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to Disney, sorta blames Disney. "The Disney canon is fairly simple," Pinsky said in an interview. "Good is always rewarded. Evil is always punished. Faith is paramount -- faith in yourself and, equally, faith in something greater than yourself. It doesn't matter what it is that's greater than yourself."
Remember Jiminy Cricket's song? When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you. If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
We look ourselves in the mirror, and we give ourselves a pep talk, repeating positive self-affirmations. "You've got to want it," we say, "it's simply mind over matter."
We've been told that our attitude controls our altitude. We believe that we need to be motivated, and we understand that we need to visualize and conceptualize in order to actualize.
We acknowledge that if we want to achieve we must first believe. Commitment we are told is key, as is discipline, determination, patience, persistence, and the pursuit of elusive perfection.
Believe in yourself! Why? Because you have potential! When obstacles appear in our path, and when disappointments occur, we should, as Winston Churchill said, move from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
And as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded us, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Why did Rocky win his fights? Because he had heart, because he had guts, because he had the eye of the tiger, because he was hungry.
Some people believe that there is a magical formula to success. Millions of people long for this formula, and as a result self-help has grown into an $11 billion industry. Most of the self-help books in large part are made up of what Kathryn Schulz refers to as "charlatanism, cheerleading, bad science, silver bullets, and New Age hoo-ha."
The steps to success are easy, so many authors tell us. "I did it, so you can too." I recently saw one article about the steps to success that broke it down like this: Attitude, Action and Atmosphere.
Famed salesman and success guru Zig Ziglar had his own formula: KNOWLEDGE + ACTION + POSITIVE ATTITUDE = SUCCESS.
"Planning, preparing and expecting to win," was another one of his mantras.
Success superstar Tony Robbins says that if you want to succeed you must "have a strategy, change your story and develop a quality state."
I have read many self-help books, and the advice seems to boil down to the following common sense steps which few could argue with:
1. Get started: Zig Ziglar, said, "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."
2. If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail. So set goals and make plans.
3. Believe in yourself. "Beliefs" says motivational guru Tony Robbins, "have the power to create and the power to destroy."
4. Visualize success. Think Big. See yourself crossing the finish line, getting that raise, losing that weight, becoming stronger, achieving wealth.
5. Take action. Baby steps and bold strides towards your goals.
6. Positive messaging. No room for doubt.
Who could argue with those steps? They ring true, and they have probably been deeply held convictions of most successful people.
But Are We Deluding Ourselves?
Ellen Langer, whose study on the concept of IOC (Illusion of Control) observed that there is some "element of chance in every skill situation and an element of skill in almost every chance situation." Langer found that most of us go around imagining that we actually have control over the routine as well as the random events which occur around us. This belief and the desire to exert control over our surroundings makes us susceptible to the illusion of control.
Psychologist Sandra Sanger asks, "Why do we, as seemingly rational, well-intentioned people go around deluding ourselves on a regular basis?" Sanger has observed that "Time and again research has demonstrated that intelligence, knowledge, and reason notwithstanding, people often believe that they have control over events in their lives, even when such control is impossible."
Sanger's research has discovered that people wish they could control events and people around them. They detest the feeling of not being in control, and they have a profound fear of being controlled by others.
Langer wanted to better understand what goes on in a gambler's mind. She discussed the concept of "skill cues," defined by Lisa Coleman as a "behavior they can physically alter to attempt to win at a game that is totally up to chance. If this works, the gambler may form an unrealistic belief that they are 'skilled' at the game, and will continue to gamble into the night."
Here's an interesting example Langer noticed. Believing that skill influences luck, "When rolling dice in craps, it has been shown that people tend to throw harder for high numbers and softer for low numbers."
Few people are willing to acknowledge the role that luck plays in their lives, having you believe instead that they themselves are the cause of their success.
Famed self-help pioneer Andrew Carnegie said: "If you analyze my definition of success you will see that there is no element of luck about it. A man may, and sometimes men do, fall into opportunities through mere chance, or luck; but they have a queer way of falling out of these opportunities the first time opposition overtakes them."
And rugged individualist Ayn Rand said: "I submit that any man who ascribes success to 'luck' has never achieved anything and has no inkling of the relentless effort which achievement requires. I submit that a successful man who ascribes his own (legitimate) success in part to luck is either a modest, concrete-bound represser who does not understand the issue—or an appeaser who tries to mollify the resentment of envious mediocrities."
But it May Simply be 'doublethink.'
"Doublethink," according to George Orwell, is "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."
According to Kathryn Schulz in an incredible article in New York Magazine titled "The Self in Self Help," it turns out that all of that surface noise in the self-help movement is deceptive: "Underneath what appears to be umptebajillion ideas about who we are and how we work, the self-help movement has a startling paucity of theories about the self. To be precise: It has one. Let us call it the master theory of self-help. It goes like this: Somewhere below or above or beyond the part of you that is struggling with weight loss or procrastination or whatever your particular problem might be, there is another part of you that is immune to that problem and capable of solving it for the rest of you. In other words, this master theory is fundamentally dualist. It posits, at a minimum, two selves: one that needs a kick in the ass and one that is capable of kicking."
Ellen Langer sees three principles at work: (a) When control is desirable, that is, when success seems likely, people will seek out factors such as competition, choice, etc. (b) When control is undesirable, that is, when failure is both likely and costly, people will avoid these factors.
(c) When there is an intrusion of reality such that the focus of attention is shifted back to the chance elements in the situation and away from the skill characteristics that were predominating, the illusion will dissipate.
Daniel Kahneman (*) formulates success differently than the normal self-help guru. Instead he suggests the following equation: Success = Talent + Luck
Warren Buffett understands this principle. He said, "I’m not sure whether it’s intellectual or emotional, but when I was born in 1930 the odds were 40-to-1 against me being born in the United States as opposed to someplace else. I was a male. The odds were even money on that. So now I’m down to 80-to-1. You don’t want to bet on 80-to-1 shots normally, but I got lucky. As Bill says, if I’d been born a few thousand years ago I’d have been some animal’s lunch, because I’d have gone around saying, ‘Well, I allocate capital,’ you know, and the animal would say, ‘They’re the kind that tastes the best.’ I can’t run fast. And I can’t climb trees. And so here I am, by pure, pure luck, born at the right time, the right gender as it turned out, compared to my sisters who were just as smart or smarter than I am, in the right place and in a system where allocating capital pays off like crazy."
Robert H. Frank, Economics Professor at Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University tends to agree with Buffett: "Of course, we should keep celebrating the talented, hard-working people who have succeeded in their businesses or careers. But the research provides an important moral lesson: that these people might also do well to remain more humbly mindful of their own good fortune."
"Research suggests that athletes who win bronze medals are actually happier than those who win silver medals," says Richard Wiseman in The Luck Factor. "And the reason for this has to do with the way in which the athletes think about their performance. The silver medal lists focus on the notion that if they had performed slightly better, then they would have perhaps won a gold medal. In contrast, the bronze medalists focus on the thought that if they had performed slightly worse, then they wouldn’t have won anything at all. Psychologists refer to our ability to imagine what might have happened, rather than what actually did happen, as 'counter-factual.'"
So, it boils down to this. Work hard, keep growing and learning and stretching, prepare as best you can, keep a positive attitude, reframe negative situations, and take advantage of luck.
"Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality."
Listener Matt sent in a set of questions about how to run a martial arts school. Well, Lawrence takes Kris through the paces of location, advertising, students, how to get fired, why the YMCA is not the best solution, how health clubs compete – and how they don’t. Also a great little book recommendation that will save you from making a pile of mistakes, and save you money.
Reality Based Self Defence is an umbrella term for a training methodology that seems to divide the martial arts community. On the one hand no sensible person seems to dispute that bringing realism to training can improve its value for self protection, on the other the means by which that realism is created divides people both inside and outside the RBSD umbrella, an umbrella that includes people from a broad variety of training backgrounds.
For me scenario training is where the thin line between worthwhile training and irrelevant fantasy is trod. I am very much in favour of putting (suitably trained) students into role plays simulating real assaults (and depending upon the students, situations where they may need to control or arrest resisting people) – but how this is achieved separates to my mind those who are doing something worthwhile from those who are living in a fantasy world. Describing some people who are either self labeled or externally branded as RSBD as living in a fantasy world may seem harsh, but if the material taught isn’t pressure tested as a means of quality management – then it’s my honest opinion that this is what they are. In Budo Sportif quality control is very much in evidence: it’s seen in sparring and in any number of contact and non contact competitions. Martial artists in those arenas have no doubt as to the efficacy of their techniques in their competitions because they are continuously pressure tested for that medium.
Unfortunately there is a booming market for techniques that are ‘to deadly to train’. Some of these are valid, many are not. Stabbing someone with a blade to end a fight, or shooting them, are valid (though not always legal) methods of ending fights (providing your aim is good under pressure and you have trained to access your skill sets under pressure). Unless you have the financial wherewithal to have access to appropriate protective equipment, environments and ammunition types the latter training method cannot be taken off the firing range – it is too deadly to train. There are certain debilitating techniques that can often be effective: eye strikes, groin strikes, neck strikes, baseball bat strikes – but while some of these are too risky to train full contact, none of them can be guaranteed to negate a threat and so claiming that you cannot practice your techniques because ‘they are too deadly’ is living in a fantasy world of your own creation. As none of these techniques are 100% fail-proof, and anyone who has trained these techniques in full contact scenarios or used them for real will vouch that they are not, at the very least you need a repertoire of companion and redundancy techniques that aren’t too deadly to train (and we know that because of their use in the sporting arenas, from real life experience/observation, or in scenario training) that you are pressure testing.
Having taken the decision to pressure test studied techniques in scenarios, there are various steps that any professional instructor needs to bear in mind before allowing training to take place. RBSD Scenario training does not just happen, or rather it shouldn’t just happen, it is a process.
A. The training environment. Your environment might be suitable for regular training – but is it okay for a scenario? When the proverbial hits the fan it is amazing how quickly people can end up on the floor, up against the wall or in a corner. It’s very important that the training environment risk assessment that you’ve done for normal classes has been reevaluated. How solid is that wall if people crash into it? How close are people to the windows – are there going to need to be safety supervisors blocking the way? What about notice boards and fire extinguishers? Is the floor soft or does it need padding – or do the people need sternum and knee padding? Do those pillars need padding?
A carefully prepared training environment:
I may sound like an over-protective mother here. If you bump your knee or backside on the ground it’s part of the learning process right? You’d do that in a real fight wouldn’t you? Right?
Wrong. If an injury could have been prevented – you are liable for it. And yes getting a bump may be a learning experience, but getting a serious long term knee or coccyx injury that might be ‘acceptable’ while saving a life in a real fight isn’t acceptable for a student who has a life to lead and a job to go to. Your job is to make the student safer – and part of that is making sure he is fit and well enough to go to work tomorrow as well as taking part in your next lesson.
Light and sound are also factors in your training environment. You may want to have bright light so that you can see, but you may also want the facility to dim the lights to create a visual effect – if it is safe to do so. You may want bright sunlight streaming into the room so you can teach maneuvering and positioning to get the sun behind you and not the other person. You might want quiet so that you can hear any conversations that are taking place in the scenario, and any safety words (see below), but you might also want noise as an aural distraction tool which makes focusing much harder. All these factors need to be accounted for.
B. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If you are making full contact I’d regard this as a must, and you need the right tools for the job. There is a balance to be struck here between the psychological conditioning of receiving contact (for the defender if there is one) in the scenario, the psychological conditioning of making contact against a real person, and the duty of care to protect all concerned. Certainly head gear that fully protects the face is a must – people who have jobs cannot afford to go to work missing teeth, or with facial bruises – it’s that simple. Ultimately wearing armour is not a cop out – you still feel pain, still get winded, but you reduce or negate the chances of bones being broken and you allow people to train at greater intensity for longer without serious injury. PPE is really a subject that deserves an entire article of its own. There are the various bits and pieces made by innumerable companies designed for specific sparring arenas, and then there are the RBSD specific products such as the Bullet Man, Redman (and Redman WDS), FIST, High Gear and Spartan Training Gear. Personally I increasingly use Spartan Training Gear because of its unique slim fit and versatility along with the attention to design and utility detail with each new product. Alongside this I use a lighter non plate flexible slimmer armour for more experienced trainees that I have developed myself and is not available for sale.
Participants in Spartan Training Gear:
It is important to be aware that head gear does not prevent knockouts or brain injuries, it reduces impact but does not remove it. If full contact strikes were always made to the head with the combination of MMA gloves and sparring head gear then each scenario would be like asking participants to enter a full contact UFC bout. All training is a compromise and armour use expands how far training can be taken, but it does not remove all the risks: attention to detail and clear rules are important if you are to make the most of PPE.
A good job this preemptive defence was pulled:
C. Rules. There’s no such thing as no rules – even when simulating the rule free environment of real assaults. Have a safety brief, and a medical brief – these should be formal, not informal. Everyone needs to know what the training framework is – what things should (and will) cause a cessation of training. Have a safety word and make sure everyone knows it. In DART we use “Zero” since “stop” and “halt” are words that are likely to be used in the dialogue of any scenario. Are you utilizing weapons? If so – what sort, who is controlling them, who is checking them, what safety measures have you in place to ensure training and real items are never mixed? This may sound silly to UK readers, but it’s not so silly to Police Departments abroad where people have lost their lives due to real ammunition causing fatalities in training scenarios.
D. The number of safety supervisors. You can’t be everywhere. You can’t see every angle, and your brain isn’t fast enough to track everything. That’s why having more than one set of eyes is always best. In an ideal world I’d have a safety supervisor for every person taking part – all positioned at different angles – all with the power to stop training. Most environments don’t make that possible unless you have observation walkways above the training area. Every participant (especially the role players) should also be looking out for positions where someone could fall badly, put a joint too far through a range of motion etc, and all be briefed to call a halt to training if necessary.
E. The skill level of the participants. One size does not fit all. You cannot place a student (or a simulated attacker) in a scenario for which they have not been equipped with the appropriate mental, verbal or physical toolsets. When briefing an attacker you need to ensure that the ‘technique repertoire’ that they are going to use is appropriate for the student for whom that scenario is being created. The educational value of attacking a student in a manner that requires something they have not been taught is minimal, and to do so runs a greater risk of injury for both attacker and student that is unacceptable. Ultimately – the skill levels of the participants restrict the ferocity, contact and techniques of the situation – and at the same time determine it’s aim.
F. Techniques. I talked above about techniques that some consider ‘too deadly’ to train. You need to risk assess your repertoire. If it’s not safe to do full speed in a real time real force scenario – then it shouldn’t be there, and everyone should know. If it is not effective in a real time real force scenario, it shouldn’t be there either since you are risking injury by attempting it.
A. Physical Development/Assessment. Though not necessarily the most important of training aims for scenario training, this is the most obvious. A well executed scenario simulation enables both the instructor and the student to see the quality of their physical technique under pressure. In terms of feedback, for RBSD students this is the equivalent of a fighter going into the ring in MMA – with a well constructed scenario this is as good as it’s going to get.
Students at the end of a DART Sim Day in their different coloured T shirts; the variety helps with identification on video feedback:
B. Psychological Development. There are many strands of the psychological development that can be gained, for both attacker and defender in taking part in scenario based training.
(i) Aggressive Mindset. Before striking a mobile attacker full contact in a scenario a student should normally first have learned power development through hitting pads, shields and bags. Next I would expect a student to have progressed on to hitting a static person along a force continuum, since not everyone is naturally programmed to be able to hit another person with ease. Once this mental threshold has been passed I would expect a person to have been trained to hit an appropriately armoured training partner in a more dynamic context – such as the strict routine of a drill – becoming accustomed to striking in context. Both of these situations are different from finding the aggression and the willpower to strike a person in an ‘alive’ training context where their attack will not stop until ‘you’ stop it. The aforementioned situations lay the foundations to overcome inhibitions, but it often takes the scenario to release and test those inhibitions fully. Benefit is not solely limited to the defender. In fact role playing an attacker can often help release aggressive inhibitions too, and make it easier for a timid person to become a successful defender.
(ii) Pain Management. As I have described previously in Iain Abernethy’s Jissen Magazine, the conditioning gained from hitting and being hit by another person is psychological, not physical. Prior static training builds up the ability to accept pain and an appreciation of what certain blows feel like (in muted form). Role playing as both defender and attacker in contact simulations develops the mindset to carry on regardless.
(iii) Verbal skills. The ability to think – and talk – under pressure is something that distinguishes scenario training from lots of basic sparring. The conditioning to ignore verbal abuse, to be less affected by physical posturing, shouting, facial contortion and swearing, and the development of the ability to speak with a greater degree of calm. In many scenarios I purposely build in language phrases that the attackers will take as a cue to change tactics – whether to go directly to physical or to allow themselves to be talked down. The rationale is simple – if every scenario you encounter in self defence training turns physical, are you really training avoidance and de-escalation? No. Students need to practice working their skills in an environment that simulates reality – and that means employing verbal tactics when things may or may not go physical, and to have success in employing those verbal tactics that will encourage them to use them for real without compromising their physical position.
(iv) Fear Management and Confidence. This is linked to all the psychological items listed above. One criticism that I have known some martial artists make of RBSD is that it panders to and creates paranoia. I am not personally a fan of exaggerating crime statistics to gain students, nor do I believe that people ‘should expect to get attacked’ at every turn. What I suspect to be the truth though is that the vast majority of people who take up a form of martial arts training do so with self protection being one (if not the only or the most paramount) of their reasons. Do I think that RBSD creates paranoia? No. Paranoid tendencies create paranoia. What RBSD does, or rather should do, is train people to defend themselves against the most common violent situations, inform them of steps to avoid these, educate them as to their likelihood, and pressure test them. In doing that you create a fear management tool both for everyday life and for real situations. The former because having done everything you can feasibly do for what is (for the majority of us) an unlikely situation, you don’t need to worry about it. The latter because having experienced replications of such situations again and again you are more likely to retain a degree of psychological control and take the most appropriate course of action depending upon the situation.
An argument in a DART Simulation Day:
Every training scenario should have at least one core aim. Even basic training is so complex that you cannot isolate one of the above from all the others, but training without a clear objective of skill reinforcement, skill development, skill assessment is unstructured, wasteful, and potentially dangerous.
I run several ‘open’ simulation training days a year at my local venue and travel to deliver the same training too. It’s great fun and surprisingly tiring for the participants given the actual amount of time they are physically active. One thing I enjoy about running such days is that even when people have struggled initially, they always enjoy themselves, they always improve, they appreciate the feedback, they can make their own decisions about what works and what doesn’t, and the camera (unlike our memories) doesn’t lie.
In this day and age there is a great deal of Karate on offer to potential students. In different countries and different counties/states there are perhaps greater concentrations of particular styles, and some have gained a greater following than others, but they all have a lineage (even if it is through a differently named style) of teachers that can be traced back to a fairly small number of individual teachers in the mid to late C19 on Okinawa.
If we consider the many styles that have come from these individuals – what a heritage they have left us. Is it possible to count all the styles and be sure you do in fact have them all? Then there are styles within styles or different associations of the same style – still using the same ‘brand name’ but with subtle differences and often their own independent grading systems.
Today there are many pressures on karate teachers that may not have existed for those men in Okinawa so many years ago. A modern instructor may not necessarily be running a club to provide himself or his association income, but he/she still has to bring in enough students to cover the hall rental if there is to be any training at all. Whether we like it or not, each club is a business to a certain degree, even if its aims are solely charitable. Prospective students are faced with far greater choice than ever before between different dojos and other systems, and the amount of information available to them is at once both helpful and confusing. Did the question as to ‘what’ karate is for – self defence, personal development, fitness, flexibility and so forth – vex students and teachers then as much as it does now in our ‘on demand’ and ‘alternative service’ world? In 1908 Anko Itosu wrote
You must decide if karate is for your health or to aid your duty.
but I wonder how many people who have trained in karate have truly established what they are training for, and in what order of priority.
A natural response to this competitive world has been for many instructors to adopt terms to describe the way ‘they’ practise karate as opposed to other styles. Over the years I have seen terms such as ‘practical’, ‘modern’, ‘classical’, ‘sport’, ‘full contact’ and ‘traditional’ used as a means of simplifying core principles and methods and creating distance with competitors. The question I want to raise here is – what is traditional karate?
It seems such a simple question. I wonder how many of you immediately pictured a shiny wooden floor and beautiful plain white karate suits? Tatami mats anyone? Makiwara and traditional strengthening tools? A shrine? Did you think of a teacher with just one or two students, or a nice big class moving as one to the Sensei’s shout? Was there linework or techniques practiced by number in your mental picture? Were the commands in Japanese? Did the students spar? Did your mind go to Okinawa, Japan, or the tales of how Karate was in your country when the pioneering instructors introduced it?
I don’t wish to sound glib, but the thing about tradition is that once you’ve done something more than once – it can be classed as tradition. You may want to describe your precise replication of the way your teacher taught you in ‘1970’ as the definitive tradition for your style – but what would you say if someone observing it said “well actually he was quite a modernist and this is how they did it where he came from and how it’s still done there.” Is that just as traditional or more traditional?
What I would like to raise here is that we could say that there is more to traditional karate than physical actions, language, drills or even kata – there is intent. What was the intent of those men who sought out other teachers and trained and passed on their knowledge? There is no way that you can be Sokon Matsumura, Anko Azato, Anko Itosu, Kokan Oyadomori, Kanryo Higaonna or Chotoku Kyan: you cannot train precisely the way they did or replicate their experiences – but you can aim for the same thing they did. Isn’t that traditional?
Must there be Japanese in a traditional karate class? The Japanese use Japanese because it is their native language. When a Japanese announces the name of a Kata or technique they are thus experiencing something quite different from a non-Japanese speaking occidental doing the same – even if you have a good translation in mind. The use of the Japanese language can lead to confusion over technique (such as translating the word Uke as ‘block’ instead of something more appropriate like ‘receiver’), particularly when discussing items with those practising Chinese or Korean styles. English, on the other hand is a great leveller and promoter of accurate communication between English speaking practitioners of an art. “But it’s traditional to use Japanese!” many might cry. Is it? I don’t think so. Karate has only been the ‘preserve’ of the Japanese since the second decade of the 20th century – not even 100 years. For the second half of that century it has been practiced by non-Japanese speaking individuals across the world, in fact there are more non Japanese speaking Karateka than native speaking trainees. If we choose to look at the preceding 100 years, from the time period where most of the Kata that Karateka practice were developed, we find that Karate was Okinawan and Chinese, not Japanese. In how many Okinawan dojos were Karateka using the local Okinawan dialect and pronunciation rather than Japanese? These trainees used the language they spoke – they didn’t keep the Chinese names for Kata or techniques, they changed them to their mother tongue. Even the name Karate is fairly modern. How many traditional schools translate this as (and use the Kanji for) the modern ‘Empty hand’ instead of the older ‘China hand’? According to tradition Anko Itosu remodelled (or created) and renamed the Channan kata ‘Pinan’ to make it easier to pronounce. If we wish to follow tradition then we could use our native tongue for Kata names and technique names to ensure an accurate transmission of ideas and knowledge rather than mimicking the Japanese. I’ve had fewer problems using the term ‘ball of foot roundhouse kick’ than ‘Maewashi geri’ when discussing techniques or sharing information online, but someone who only talks ‘karate’ with karateka might find the Japanese term more widely accepted.
Is a Gi a symbol of traditional karate? It is a useful hard wearing garment and students do tend to like uniformity – it ‘gets them in the mood’. When combined with a coloured belt system It is also convenient for displaying rank – which helps the teacher in mixed ability classes. It is essentially the ‘underwear’ of traditional dress from an age and culture where people did not have specialist sport/training clothing. The idea was to wear something that came close to everyday dress but allowed you to move and it didn’t matter if it got dirty. The Gi and belt are symbols of the Japanization of Karate, but Karate predates them. If you put on a tracksuit and sweatshirt you are adhering to some principles behind the adoption of the Gi, if you all wear the same tracksuit or t shirts (think of MMA clubs with brand loyalty to a particular logo, or indeed their own club logo) then you are following the same ‘club uniform and group identity’ principles that underwrote the beginning of the modern karate uniform.
Let us consider spiritual teaching. This is a very blurry aspect of martial arts practise. The study of the Karate has, due in no small part to its Chinese background, long been linked with the teaching of self-control. Many of the praised mental values of the martial arts are simply facets of the oriental background culture, some of which while uncommon in the West today would have been part and parcel of pre mid-twentieth century English society. The merging of these teachings as part of the Japanese pursuit of Do, ‘way of the empty hand’ rather than ‘China hand fighting system’, is again a relatively modern phenomenon. I do believe in endeavouring to impart through the medium of martial arts training the qualities of humility, respect, self-discipline, and the ability to keep a calm and level mind. The question that springs to my mind is not so much whether their teaching is designed to produce ‘better’ people so much as to produce people less likely to get into fights – the first and most important stage of any real self-protection programme. I do not feel that the teaching of these aspects can be helped at all in any way by using a foreign language. Having taught in schools, dojos, university tutorials and in the military I would say that communication is one of the most important elements of teaching – I cannot see as many benefits in using Japanese terms instead of appropriate English translations.
What about training equipment? The Makiwara is an interesting training tool. I had one between 1994 – 2004 when I decided I couldn’t be bothered to dig up the 7 foot pole for yet another move. When you think of what used to be available in Okinawa – it is very clever: it provides resistance – but not so much to damage the joints, provides solo target training and bone/skin conditioning. You can use a Makiwara for more than just punching – but it is limited compared to a bag, or a bytonic bob, or a partner with a good shield, thai pads or focus mitts. I am certain that if those training tools were widely available in the mid to late C19 and of comparable price and quality then they would have been used and recognised as better. The various strength tools that come from China, Okinawa and Japan also show ingenuity – but they are also an example of doing the best you can with the resources available. There are better ways to work now and we would be in keeping with tradition to use them. Would you say that someone isn’t traditional because they use focus mitts or punch bags? Would you say that people are not traditional because they don’t use Makiwara? It is the development of power, stability and accuracy through striking a target that is traditional – not the target used. Few people would choose straw tatami over modern easily cleanable purposely designed martial arts mats.
A subject that is quite close to my heart these days is that of armour and physical contact. I accept that in karate it is difficult to safely make contact – that is par for the course and the curse of the percussive element of our art. Some styles discourage paired work as too dangerous, others practice it now but with ‘no contact’, others still work full contact to limited areas. Some say that in Shotokan sparring is non traditional because Funakoshi disagreed with it, though Funakoshi himself was interested in the possibility of armoured karate. I’m not aware of evidence that shows his teachers disagreed with it and in this instance a personal preference seems to have started a short lived tradition. If you look at this picture of Okinawan karateka Kenwa Mabuni about to do paired work you can see that he is trying the best armour he could piece together to enable him to make his paired practise as ‘real’ as safely possible.
Doesn’t the picture of the students in Spartan Training Gear show the same intent? We are lucky that we have much better gear to allow us to use contact safely. For many years I rejected the use of armour because of the limitations on movement that I perceived it to have, and the areas of the body still left unprotected, but there is armour available now that protects the majority of the body and allows free movement. As a result of this progression in PPE I use armour regularly depending on the levels of contact within my classes, and those that have followed some of my videos on the DART youtube channel will know that we have used it to good effect in multiple person self protection Scenario Training.
Another element of training that I personally find interesting is the predominance of line work. I trained in a ‘traditional’ Shotokan school for over a decade and found that this form of training accounted for well over a third of all training time (the other elements were pre-arranged sparring and Kata practice. The parrot-fashion line work that forms so much of modern Karate was a method engineered for the huge University classes of the early C20 onwards (although it is possible that this method may have first come about when Karate was introduced to Okinawan schools by Anko Itosu in 1910). It has strengths as a training method but It is hardly any more traditional than the Sport Karate championed by Nakayama (in Shotokan).
Kata. Kata is a very important part of tradition. Kata is so important that many karate styles make their students learn it for no obvious reason than to have learnt it. Does that interpretation of much of modern kata practise shock you? Are you one of the lucky trainees who spends most of their Kata practise actually applying the moves against a partner? Actually doing something with the kata? When I think of all those anecdotes of the ‘master’ who knew only one Kata or the person who spent five years learning one Kata, I wonder to myself – how much time did they spend practising it solo and how much time did they spend working it paired? When they did practise it solo, did they do it the same way and same speed over and over, or did they vary the speed and movements many times according to what they were visualising as the application? What is more important – the application and intent of the moves or the rehearsal of the moves? When books and videos were hard to come by, solo kata practise as a teaching tool made sense. It makes less sense now because we can transmit that knowledge in different ways. That is not to say that the lessons and techniques contained in Kata are not still important or useful. My only question is this – shouldn’t we always strive to give the student the best method (for them) possible to help them train and remember their drills? Isn’t the Bunkai and Oyo ultimately more important than the solo Kata? Wasn’t that what it was all about? Isn’t that what it’s for?
Let us take this train of thought a stage further. If the Kata represent a repertoire of combat principles and techniques, and we drill those techniques and teach those principles, but never actually spend any time training away from the teacher or the class – do we still need the Kata? The Kata isn’t going to die out – we are still using all its movements and they are all stored together in books and films. If the solo form is simply a mnemonic, and you are practising the subject of the mnemonic, do you need to learn the mnemonic if you are never going to train alone? What is its use if you are never going to use it? Is the tradition of how we remember techniques more important than the techniques themselves? Didn’t the techniques come before the Kata? If the movements predate the Kata then isn’t the Kata just a learning tool – it may be traditional to do it, but it is equally traditional to use the techniques. By this logic you could still be traditional without doing any Kata at all. That may be too much of a jump for many people, but some Karate styles have found their method of practice so distanced by their current pedagogy from their ‘original’ kata that they have created their own that reflect their training drills. It’s quite likely that this practise is one of the reasons why we have not only so many different forms today, but so many variations between styles on the same forms.
If a Karate style was recognized as having been created in 1890 there are few who would not describe its modern practitioners as ‘traditional’. What about if it was created in 1920? 1950? 1980? 2013? There was a precedent of students cross-training and forming their own styles after 10 years of training just as there now is a tradition of students imitating their teachers and never progressing further other than biomechanical efficiency or passing on personal study. The latter case is unfortunately typical of the more shallow nature of much of modern Karate, the result of the Jitsu (practical fighting) teaching being dropped in favour of sport and moving Zen emphases – the real martial element becoming superficial at best. Although the number of students in Karate has increased the number of serious innovators seems to have remained relatively constant – partly due to the pressure of the ‘market brands’ and partly due to the fact that few can dedicate enough concentrated time to the furtherance of their art. If we look at three of the foremost figures in the history of my own lineage of ‘modern’ karate, Sokon Matsumura, Anko Itosu and Gichin Funakoshi it can be seen that:
all three of them cross trained,
all three of them set up their own schools,
all three of them made alterations to Kata,
all three of them had students who followed in their footsteps and created their own styles,
none of them had what we would recognize as Dan grades awarded in their own styles from masters in their own styles.
It is odd therefore to condemn students who cross-train, study hard and develop their own integrated method of training with its own philosophy, or to claim that they are not ‘traditional’. Like their predecessors they are living in the present. A new system of Karate can still be traditional – in fact depending upon the methods and outlook of its instructors it could be more traditional than its ‘ancestor’.
As students and teachers we develop. We learn new things and gain new insights. There is so much more information available to us in the realm of sports science and human physiology. So much more available to us on the subject of war, crime and psychology. There are so many good teachers of other martial arts that we can learn from. Why is cross training frowned upon? It is traditional. Cross training can bring new ideas and changes and of course these can lead to changes in kata and training methods. If you look back to the C19 you can see that happening then. I would not support change for the sake of change, but I would not oppose change as a result of new insights. If there was no change and no growth we would not have such a rich Karate heritage or such diversity today.
Consider the training methods at your own dojo and return once more to the question of the nature of tradition. You may be fortunate enough to work on a nice sprung wooden floor, the club may have many knowledgeable and skilled dan grades and teachers. The spirit of the club may be high and the uniforms pristine (at the start of each training session anyway). All these things represent elements of particular Karate traditions. But I ask this – what is the intent behind your training? Is that traditional? Does your teacher seek what the karateka before him sought? Do you?
If you were to walk into one of my normal lessons you would hear no Japanese. You would see no lines of white suits. If you see our solo form work then you’ll see it put into paired practise move for move. You would see the best body armour I can buy being used and evidence of up to date research in physiology and psychology. You would see plenty of work involving focus mitts and kick shields. You might recognise movements from your kata, but you would see them in action. I will quite happily don a Gi to teach in your dojo, but it’s not suitable for mine (not least because body armour doesn’t fit over it very well). Through all of this I see myself as a very traditional Karateka: I am trying to provide the best self-protection teaching and training I can based upon the culture I am operating in, aimed for the culture and time that my students are living in, using all the facilities available to me – and that brings a tremendous peace of mind. That is traditional karate.
So... today in class we were having a discussion on bullying. Having been bullied as a child I made the comment that I was against it and stop it when I see it happening. A girl turned to me and said that bullying happens, its normal, and to toughen up because there is nothing wrong with it and it never goes away. While I agree it never goes away, I disagree that its normal and there are no adverse effects from bullying. Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller, I'm curious of your perspective on this. Is bullying harmless and how do you deal with a bully?
For the record, what to do about bullying is here. Two lines in the second paragraph covers everything that works.
This isn't as clear as we would like.
Part of it is the way Tiffani subtly reframed the questions. If something never goes away, then it is the normal state. It will take an act of will to create an unnatural state where this doesn't happen. And her arguer never said that there were no adverse effects. Nor that bullying was harmless.
So, clearing up, there is no bad guy in this disagreement.
Is there "nothing wrong with bullying?" There's all kinds of things wrong with bullying. Does anybody like to be bullied? Barring certain personality disorders, I mean. But there are some benefits.
Augustine, in "The City of God" was trying to explain why good things happen to bad people. One of his arguments was that it is not the event that is bad. Olives and olive leaves both go into the press. The olives come out as pure, valuable oil and the leaves come out as mangled garbage.
Everyone has been bullied. Everyone. And the reactions to it are critical to who we become as an adult. Tiffani didn't like it and won't let it happen for others. Her reaction to bullying, whatever age it happened at, cemented one of her most admirable traits. I went through a progression as a kid. I would fiercely defend any of the littler kids on the playground, but it was years before I realized I had the same right to stand up for myself. Then I went a little too far the other way, making a point that I could bully big strong people who liked bullying the small and weak. In hindsight I can see I was just as bad, and felt fully justified because I only bullied bullies. But I bullied them, I wasn't merely assertive or just trying to get their behavior to stop. I wanted them to feel what others had felt.
That's still stronger than I like to admit in my psyche.
So, "toughen up." That's actually good advice. Discipline, strength (physical and mental), whatever it takes so that other people can't control your emotions is a good thing. And it is woefully hard to get tough or strong or brave or compassionate or even loving if those qualities are never challenged.
The most formative thing in high school for me was football. My school was small. Graduating class of six. My junior year, for the first time in almost a decade, they had enough boys to field a B-league (eight man) football team. If I went out for it. As a junior, I was almost the smallest kid in the school. I didn't break 5 foot tall or a hundred pounds until the summer before my senior year. (I did basketball and track, too. Really small school.) It was a lot of pressure, but we had a team and I played.
And I learned more about human dynamics, and power plays and politics and bullying in that locker room than any academic could ever dream. As did damn near every male (I have no idea how women's team sports are) who has been through the same thing. Most importantly I learned that size was not a tenth as important as the willingness to stand up. And knocking people down was not as important as getting up yourself. And stepping in to help others is noble, but expecting people to step in is stupid.
And there is a qualitative difference in every aspect of life between the men who have navigated that experience successfully and the ones who have not. I see most of the anti-bullying industry as weak people who failed at overcoming it as children fantasizing about a solution from the distance of adulthood.
Sometimes I see anti-bullying causes as wanting to create a world where it is safe to be weak. And I get that. I like the idea of a safe world. But I virulently despise the concept of a world of the weak. The mild. The insipid. And that is one of the inevitable unintended consequences of making a world too safe.
Much of 'good' is unnatural. It takes a sustained act of will. It would take an enormous and coherent act of will to make bullying go away, and even then it will keep cropping up. But if we were to raise children in that perfect environment, would we make them incapable of dealing with adversity? Would the weirdness of people who believe that hurt feelings are are more real than spilled blood, spread? Would our society become a hothouse flower, beautiful but incapable of surviving without the charity of others?
If people never learn to stand up, they become dependent on others to stand up for them. It's personal, but dependency is one of my core sins. It is the other half of slavery.
A Martial Arts Parody
"In every human endeavor there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner. The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. The inner game is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that prevent an individual or team from accessing their full potential."W.Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis
For as long as he could remember Timothy wanted to be a tennis champion. His friends were into music, into pop culture, went to movies and parties. But not Timothy. He spent his spare time watching tennis matches on TV, reading tennis how-to books, visiting the local tennis courts, and pouring through tennis magazines and his autograph books. He loved tennis action films...loved the choreographed matches displaying unbelievable athletic talent. His bedroom walls were covered with posters of tennis champs. In one, a buff player was holding two racquets.
Timothy decided that in order to be a tennis champion he really needed to learn how to play tennis and play it well. He checked out the city's largest tennis school, the S.M.A.S.H. (Self-Mastery Accelerates Self-Help) Academy.
The school was big and well attended. The teacher wore silk tennis attire, gold in color, smooth and shiny. The students, barefoot, but wearing similar shirts and shorts, were all lined up neatly going through the motions of the game. The students on the front row must be advanced students...they all wore red or black sweat bands on their wrists.
"Forehand, backhand, serve, forehand, backhand, serve," shouted the instructor in loud guttural commands.
A junior instructor, Mr. Davis, came up and introduced himself and offered to take Timothy on a tour of the academy.
"Impressive, aren't they?" said Mr. Davis, looking out over the 'court.'
"They sure are," said Timothy, "but, where are their racquets?"
"Master Lawrence feels that tennis is first and foremost a mental game."
"Oh yeah, I read that book--The Inner Game, right?"
"Right," said Mr. Davis. "You're a sharp guy! And because it's a mental game, the mind supplies the racquet."
"And the ball?"
"Yes. The mind also supplies the ball."
"And you can learn to play without a racquet and a ball?" asked Timothy.
"It's not so much 'playing' as 'being,' and yes, you can learn to be IN the game without all those unnecessary physical props."
"That's good, I guess," said Timothy. "Heck, I don't even own a racquet."
"We all 'own' our individual racquet. Here, let me show you. Okay, close your eyes. Now, I'm going to put this 'racquet' in your hand. Feel the handle with it's thick rubbery texture. Close you hand around the handle. Grip it firmly. Feel its heft. Now perform some moves...let's try forehand, nice, now a backhand, excellent. Okay, you can open your eyes now. Did you feel it?"
"I guess so," said Timothy.
"The mind creates reality. That's the number one principle here at the Master Lawrence Tennis Academy," said Mr. Davis.
The class was finishing up. The students all sat down cross legged and closed their eyes.
"What are they doing?" asked Timothy.
"They're getting in the 'ZONE' now," said Mr. Davis. "Focused concentration, letting go of trying. Shutting down the inner, nagging, worried voice. Letting go of judgment."
"I don't think I quite get it," said Timothy.
"Okay, let's try this," whispered Mr. Davis. "Close your eyes. Okay, now imagine you've just awakened. Can you make your way to the kitchen in your mind? Can you find your way to the coffee pot? Can you smell the fresh coffee and sense the warmth of the cup you're holding?"
"Yes!" said Timothy excitedly. "I sure can! So, you're saying that learning to play tennis is like that?"
"Exactly...we create the game in our minds and allow our minds to create the game for our physical self."
"Wow! I've sorta been doing that EXACT same thing for years and just didn't know it! I've really never played an actual game."
"Well, you'll do well here at our school then. You won't have to unlearn any bad habits. You may even end up in an advanced class before you know it. Look, they're about ready to pair up for one-on-one practice."
Two players stood up as the rest of the class formed a large rectangle. Everyone was seated on the outside of the 'court,' and the players shook hands and moved to either side of an imaginary 'net.'
"Remember, 'performance equals potential minus interferences' shouted Master Lawrence. Timothy recalled that he had read those same words in that popular book.
Timothy watched as the players moved through an imaginary game. Their moves were choreographed perfectly, and the volley went on and on. About the 20th move, one of the players stumbled a bit. Master Lawrence came out and stopped the game. Apparently player two was supposed to have performed a jumping forehand smash after a low backhand. But the movements were off...out of sequence. Player two was instructed to exit the court and work those moves over and over again alone in the corner of the academy. One of the other players was called up, and the game started over. When it was time for the difficult low backhand, high jumping forehand smash sequence, the player executed the move flawlessly.
The players shook hands across the imaginary 'net,' and Master Lawrence took center court as the players joined their fellow students on the sidelines.
"We have two selves within us," said Master Lawrence. "Self 1 tells us what to do, how to do it, when to do it. Self 1 is a thinker. Self 1 is a task master. Self 2 is our natural, full potential self. It instinctively knows what to do. Self 2 is a natural athlete. The 2 are not compatible and would never link up on eHarmony."
The class had a big laugh.
"Let me demonstrate. You, our new guest. What's your name?"
"'Timothy, sir'" whispered Mr. Davis.
"Excuse me, my name is Timothy, sir!"
"Come on up here, Timothy!"
"You're in for a treat," said Mr. Davis.
"Yes Sir!" shouted Timothy as he sprinted onto the court.
"Okay, Timothy. Have you ever felt a full-powered tennis racquet smashed up against the side of your head?"
"No sir," answered Timothy, now afraid.
"Well, let's hope you don't feel that tonight. And in order to avoid it, you'll have to follow my instructions to the letter, and, whatever you do, don't flinch or move. Do you think you can do that?"
"I hope so," said Timothy.
"You're Self 1 wants to do it, but he's unsure. Listen to Self 2. Just relax, okay?"
"Now, I want you to take this modified tennis ball (he showed Timothy a tennis ball with a small plastic rod extending from the side) and hold the ball in front of you face. Just grip the extender with your teeth and bite down hard. You may close your eyes if you wish.
"Now, class, this is a tennis ball...an actual tennis ball. In our advanced classes we use these from time to time. And this? This is a racquet--a regulation, full sized racquet. Here at S.M.A.S.H. our elite classes will occasionally hold one of these in their hands, usually for demonstrations and partner sequence competitions. I will now perform the forehand smash, my signature move.
"Are you ready, Timothy?"
(Timothy opens one eye and nods).
"Now, remember...don't move...don't even breathe."
Master Lawrence takes a couple of slow motion practice swings, but then on the third movement he swings full force/full speed.
Timothy opens his eyes and sees Master Lawrence smiling. The class is now standing, applauding. They rarely get to see racquet-on-ball techniques, and this one was simply amazing. The ball is across the room and still rolling around after ricocheting off the opposite wall.
Timothy has witnessed true power and accuracy.
After class Mr. Davis presents him with the ball, now autographed by Master Lawrence.
"What do you say, Timothy? Would you like to join our S.M.A.S.H. class?" asks Master Lawrence.
"YES SIR!" shouts Timothy.
"Excellent! Mr. Davis, get Timothy a uniform, have him sign the paperwork, get his enrollment fee, and if Timothy thinks he's ready, let's put him in the Level 3 class, shall we?"
"Yes sir," says Mr. Davis. "Timothy, come with me."
"Wow! Level 3?"
"Yep...it usually takes a couple of months to get into the Level 3 class. He likes you, sees your potential. Will this be cash or charge?"
Timothy pulled out his wallet, and as he gave Mr. Davis his hard earned money he noticed that player two was still in the corner, working his imaginary moves. Such discipline, Timothy thought, such dedication.
But they are easy. Short videos. Impassioned speeches. Headlines. Soundbites. It takes absolutely no effort to find vitriol-disguised-as-fact to support whatever emotion-laden thing you choose to believe. But if you go to primary sources and have even basic skills in critical thinking, it is almost all bullshit. No, not bullshit. It is entertainment designed for no other purpose than to get you to read it and spread it. You are the product of this business. And it is brilliant at manipulating you.
Statistically, most of you will get half of this. You will immediately realize how true it is for the other side and completely dismiss that you partake of it too. The more raw intelligence you have, the better your justifications will be, because your limbic system trumps your neocortex. As long as you have the emotional attachment, your intelligence is a slave to your tribal identity.
Your emotions, not your intelligence decides what is 'right' and then your intelligence is drafted to prove why it is right. I've talked with pagans and shamans and christians and muslims and atheists. High end, intelligent people. They disagree. Think about two icons of the American right/left divide say, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. I'd put both their IQ's above 130. There aren't a lot, maybe any, top people in any field who are actually stupid. But what they believe (feel) trumps.
And the soundbite world of FB is perfect for this. Thinking is work. Research is work. Evidently, people hate work. We all pretend we think for ourselves, but if someone gives us a factoid that supports our worldview, the question of truth doesn't even enter our minds.
Life is about the questions, not the answers. If you accept the answers without the questions, you are giving up part of your life. It's hard, I know. And it can be stressful to live in a world where things are fairly complicated and there aren't many clear-cut bad guys and there really isn't a simple solution to big problems and there is a very real possibility that even the big problems themselves might not be what we think... but part of being an adult, as Kai says, is your comfort level with ambiguity.
Completely setting aside the fact that there is no actual need to live (can't be, since there is this inconvenient 100% mortality rate) in order to live, what are your most basic needs?
I learned Tom Brown's Sacred Order long ago: Shelter, Water, Fire, Food.
Shelter, because one of the quickest, surest deaths in the wilderness is from exposure (hypothermia or hyperthermia) and conserving core temperature is more efficient than adjusting it.
Water, because that is the next quickest killer.
Fire for a lot of reasons. It can make the water safe. It can make food safe. It helps to make tools. It increases morale and acts as a signal.
Food. Most people have more than enough stored energy (the polite word for fat) to go for some time... but when that time is up, you will die.
The Ten Essentials were taught in a survival class when I was a pup: Map, compass, light, clothes, water, food, fire starter, sunglasses, knife, first aid kit.
The essence of small unit tactics: Move, Shoot, Communicate
My dad was more pragmatic, and minimalist, "A good knife. A rifle doesn't hurt."
Survival also happens in a context. Car might break down in the Eastern Oregon desert. Maximum survival need of a couple of hours. Possibility of getting iced into the house with no electricity. Maximum two weeks, but with the whole resources of my house, which has way more stuff than I can carry. Plane wreck in remote areas?
Any really extreme survival will be voluntary. I'm never going to get sucked through a wormhole and have to live in a dinosaur infested jungle. Won't have to create a resistance cell when the commies invade. But might decide to do a week with minimal equipment just for the hell of it.
Personality comes into this as well. I'm a luddite. I am slowly coming to like my phone, but I hate the idea of betting my life on anything that needs batteries. The phone is cool-- If I'm in the right place it can serve at least three of the ten essentials and 'communicate' from the small unit essence. But if I depend on them to the point I don't carry a map and compass... Badness.
The last factor that comes to mind is portability. Your house is probably full of useful stuff and it takes little to put a very complete kit in the car and just forget about it. But I'm not going to carry a ruck to the grocery store on the off chance that the zombies rise. If it's too much stuff, you won't carry it...and going back to personality, I'd prefer that no one notice I'm carrying anything. Things are even more restrictive as much as I fly.
Do weapons figure in this? It's a potential threat profile, and high stakes. But I won't discuss it here. That's always a personal decision. And potentially actionable intel.
Another consideration. Training is more important than equipment. There are a lot of things you can do with ingenuity and minimal equipment-- and equipment you don't know how to use is just weight. But training can influence things another way. I've been trained up to sutures and administering IVs (way out of practice on sutures, though). The first aid jumpkit I'd like to carry would be huge... and it was appropriate when I was a medic assigned to an infantry unit. Knowing how to use cool tools sometimes makes you want to carry more cool tools than you can transport.
More thoughts later.