Location, location, location. How big of a space do you need? What kind of style and tone should you have for your professional martial arts school? Why simplicity is the best path. The horrible flood and how neighbors didn’t make a difference. Leases, short term, long term, Low rates, absentee landlords. Being poor, and being dirty.
Businesses use mission statement as a short hand. All of the employees come from different groups with different values and protocols. The mission statements and vision statements that organizations come up with are (subconsciously) trying to get their members to realize that when they are on the job, they are in a different tribe and these are the tribe's values. "Duty, Honor, Respect" at work... but "Love" should be in your home mores. You get the idea.
Yesterday, I wrote:
in this place and time and for my purposes and definition of best, etc*.
This might be the bones of a mission statement. Might help explain the important differences. So here's a stab at explaining those thirteen words.
In this place and time: Dealing with the threat and environment that exists. For civilians, training with respect to current law, who the student is (as a victim profile), weapons availability and actual criminal predation patterns.
This is, for me, one of the big differences between SD and MA. Martial arts is partially about preserving a method, a set of mores. Many instructors start by teaching escapes from a wrist grab--- because 130 years ago, in Japan, it was the most important self-defense technique for one strata of society. The koryu mindfully preserve cultural artifacts. Far too often the gendai arts preserve artifacts mindlessly.
And place and time changes. The situation is different in the jail, at home, traveling, in Iraq or competing. Competition is the easiest because it has the fewest variables. Not the easiest to do--grasp that. Because you can set the variables you can set competition right at the edge of what the contestants can handle. But by far the simplest to train for.
For my purposes: Changes by student profile. But the essence is this: I don't want the three a.m. phone call that Officer D is dead, and I hate visiting people in hospital. For pure SD students with no experience, I want them to be able to recognize and avoid a situation if possible; if not have the tools to survive an ambush; and get a leg up on dealing with the chaos of a bad situation. I need them to be adaptable enough to deal with a situation where they cannot know the parameters in advance. For experienced martial artists studying violence, they already have good physical skills. Any athlete has good physical skills. They need to know where those skills fit, what they will face, where their training has created false expectations. They need to know context. This is my biggest group. For force professionals, they need to be able to adapt to situations where they cannot know the parameters in advance and they must be able to integrate all of their resources (and know when, due to space or time, their options are limited) and adapt. And that has to be taught in very limited amounts of time. This is the group that is most precious to me.
My definition of best: The most important metric is maximum adaptability with minimum training time.
Measuring anything this chaotic is tricky, but that's the best I can do. And it works when you set it as a goal. Best example is the lock training. I consistently get untrained people improvising joint locks under light pressure in an hour. They don't know the name of a single lock and couldn't pass the lock portion of a traditional JJ yellow belt test, but they can find a lock, including some exotic ones, in a brawl, something many blackbelts can't do. I think that's more important, hence 'my definition of best.' And the biggest gains in efficiency don't seem to come from adding skill, bur from removing constraints. Still working on the implications of that.
Lots of differences between the instructors, and that's what I wanted to talk about.
Got to play with Kelly Sunday morning. He was teaching single stick as it relates to empty hands and he was kind enough to play with me between the lessons. Almost everything he did was different and sometimes contrary to the way I teach and think. Pattern, timing and rhythm. He gives them as a platform to build from, I treat them as an addiction and distraction to be avoided. Kelly could take the concept of timing and tie it three dimensionally, not just to rhythm but to pitch, and that gives you an entire extra dimension in which to manipulate the opponent.
We teach differently. We think differently. And both ways work.
As different as the paths of learning, the movement in students isn't that different. Some differences. For instance Kelly likes a little more distance than I do and his preferred point of action is in the limbs and mine tends to be in the core. But the essence-- the NSI guys can strike, throw, lock, grapple and incorporate weapons. It's all integrated. The faster things come, the more they adapt. And everyone is having fun. When people giggle when they get hit, you have a good school.
I only got two sessions with Leonard Trigg and didn't get to cross hands. I'm usually resistant to calling people (and very resistant to being called) master or professor or sifu. (Less resistant to sensei, since I came up in those systems and early habits are harder to break). But Trigg is one of those guys that you look at and get a feeling that a name isn't enough. You feel that there should be a title.
Quiet, incredibly self-efacing. Soft spoken enough that everyone goes silent when he talks. And tough. Moves flawlessly, hits hard. The professor taught a sequence in steps. Within that sequence were offense, defense, shutdowns, target preps and transitions. Everyone got it. No child left behind. And I saw several people spontaneously using pieces of the sequence later in more random play.
I learned very little about Professor Trigg's thought process. Two shy people tend not to make deep conversations on the first meeting. But his teaching method was very different from mine. And it worked.
People get tribal, and I have to watch for this in myself. Water and Steel was an opportunity to see a whole bunch of excellent things that were different. Challenge myself. I do believe I'm working on a superior training methodology (in this place and time and for my purposes and definition of best, etc*.) If I saw something better I'd be doing that. But it's good to get a solid reminder is that there is no 'one right way' that there are a million ways to be excellent and to create excellent students. And a lot of those methods will be better for many people than my methods.
That's what diversity is all about.
Kelly, Professor Trigg-- Thank you. It was a genuine pleasure.
* That might be a blog post tomorrow.
And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley
I proudly state that I am a "Leaper," a "Farmer," a disciple of the Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus). Our group meets at the Jackson Room of the local Airport Holiday Inn each Sunday morning in honor of the sun and its life-giving energy. We gather together, sitting in a circle of folding chairs. We hold hands during the recitation of the Glorious Story of Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus), and then we share our own individual experiences of how our lives have been changed as a result of our connection to the transformative power that the Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus) brings.
Sometimes I feel like I know what ancient martyrs went through. You see, the townspeople do not approve of our beliefs. They mock us, call us "lepers," point fingers at us, gossip about us, and shun us at local markets and restaurants. But we stand firm in our beliefs and do our best to share our experience with others, show them the way to the Garden.
The Glorious Story of Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus), warned us of what we could expect from the hunters and hungry wolves of this forest (the world). We know that the never-satiated fanged beasts of the forest want our energy and are bent on our destruction. But Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus) blesses us with stillness of heart in the face of adversity. When stillness is challenged, we also reap the benefit of having quick, agile minds to outdistance and outmaneuver our enemies.
Some, such as the PURL group, Progressive Universal Reformed Leporum, believe that it is the spirit and qualities of a symbolic lepus which is our source of inspiration. But I disagree completely. The ancient and Glorious Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus), was an actual creature who existed on the plains of Europe in the time when the Hunter (mankind) first entered the Forest.
There is clear evidence of the existence of the Glorious Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus). Statues, engravings, and primitive paintings all provide valid and historical proof of Her existence. And we know, from our own personal experiences, that we Hunters, each of us, no matter how beastly, can be changed, transformed from simple, ugly beasts to caring, considerate stewards of the Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus), and become Farmers in her Garden. We know too that the late-comers, the interlopers, those heathen believers who worship the so-called 'divine man', also acknowledge the importance of the vernal equinox and their all-important glorification of "Easter."
In fact history itself is the story of how beastly, primitive, ignorant Hunters of the Forest became Farmers and stewards of the Garden. And yet, in spite of this clear evidence, there are many who don't believe. There are many who refuse to accept the Truth.
They may have a small taste of the truth, a "nibble of a radish" as we say, but not the whole Garden of Truth. Our challenge is to help each Beast, each Hunter, enter into and feed upon the wondrous bounty of the Garden.
I was once a Hunter. I don't mind divulging that fact. It is important to admit that I too once hungered like a beast, traveled in a pack, refused to acknowledge the majesty, power and bountiful grace of Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus). But one Spring day, as I left a forest trail and entered into a field of flowers, the rays of the Sun warmed my face, lifted my spirits from the darkness, helped me see, truly see, the glorious beauty of a nearby garden. There, just beyond the fence, feeding on some leafy cabbages, was the Lepus. She almost blended into the rich dirt of the garden, but I saw her standing tall, her majestic ears pointing to the Sun. She stopped her meal and stared directly at me, stared into my heart. Still as a statue she continued to stare.
Oh sure, I know what you're thinking. It was just a common rabbit. No big deal, I've seen a million of them. But this was no ordinary rabbit. This was a vision of Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus) herself! As she continued to stare, I could sense her message to me, and to me only. "Stop your murderous ways," she said, "and look upon the bounty of this garden. Lay down your shotgun and pick up a garden hoe. Leave behind you the life of the miserable, hungry Hunter and learn the way of the Farmer."
We stayed like this for what seemed like hours, though in reality it probably lasted for only a minute. I experienced peace and insight, and felt like, and please don't laugh, but I felt like leaping and frolicking and bouncing around that field of flowers. I ran and laughed. I jumped and fell to the ground and gathered flowers about me. I lay down in that field of flowers and I looked at the nourishing Sun. I committed right then and right there to become a "Leaper" and learn the ways of the "Farmer."
Now I share my joy with others and tell my story to any who will listen. I walk among the Beasts, the hungry Hunters, and I sense their misery. I know that they move with anger that comes from hunger. I tell them, all who will allow me 2 seconds, "Leave the Forest!" Most push me aside, move on with a snarl or a growl, some even spit upon me. But some will be quickened by my words and ask me to explain. For them I share the Truth, "Leave the Forest, you Hunter, you Beast! Walk out of the darkness and enter the Sunshine. Come to the Garden so full of color, so rich with bounty. Leave behind you your Beastly ways! Leave the pack and open the Gate to the Garden!"
A few, a rare few, will yearn for the Sunshine of the Garden and want desperately to give up the dampness and the darkness of the Forest, the place of mold and rot and death. These few, these precious few, will come with me on a Sunday morning and hold hands in our circle, round like the Sun, and learn the story of Ostara Lepus (all Hail, Leaping Lepus). Even then, after hearing the story, some will return to the Forest.
But a few, a select few, will leave behind the life of the Hunter and accept the life of the Farmer.
So when I say to you, "leave the Forest," please don't turn and walk away. Come with me. Let us open the Gates to the Garden and leap into the warmth of the Sun.
All Hail, Leaping Lepus!
Reflexes can be a tricky term when discussing martial arts and fighting as a large number of martial artists do not distinguish between actions that are under their conscious control and actions that are not, or responses that are learned and responses that are not. A reflex action, also known as a reflex, is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus. If we automatically use a trained response without thinking (such as a parry) in response to a stimuli we might describe it as reflexive, but a true reflex is a behaviour that is mediated via a reflex arc, a neural pathway that controls an action reflex.
When you go to the doctor and have a medical and he/she taps your knee with a hammer and your leg twitches, that is an example of a somatic reflex arc (affecting muscles). When your tongue is depressed and you gag – that too is a reflex. You are not consciously controlling it and you cannot stop it. Do we have similar reflexes applicable to combat? The answer is yes. A working knowledge of withdrawal reflexes and tendon reflexes can improve our combative ability. I’d like to briefly look at something that is the combined result of a number of different withdrawal reflexes, the ‘flinch reflex’.
The body has autonomic mechanisms to protect itself from injury and given the right stimuli, your flinch reflex will kick in. You eyes will shut briefly and your hands and forearms will attempt first to move to cover the head (or perceived area of vulnerability) and second to push away danger
I use the term ‘right stimuli’ here because the body only flinches when the brain consciously or unconsciously perceives danger. You might note that after you have been training for a while you rarely flinch in sparring or hardly ever see flinching in the ring. This is because your brain recognises the telegraphs of the techniques and moves into a trained response – it is when you don’t spot the telegraph in time for the brain to consciously or unconsciously activate a trained appropriate response that you are startled and as a result you flinch. A simple analogy is that most of us can catch a tennis ball with one or two hands: the more time we have to prepare for catching a ball coming towards us and can see its arc the more likely we are to catch it. If however someone were to shout “look out” and on turning our head we were to see a ball flying straight for our face, depending upon our skill level, the speed of the incoming object, and our reaction time, we would do one of the following:
- Scrunch our face up to brace for impact and shut our eyes
- The above while turning the head away as much as we can
- The above while covering the head with the hands and ducking away from the object
- Turning slightly but also pushing out with nearest hand while the other covers the face
- Intercepting the object with a previously trained skill
A person just off the line of flight of this bat with sufficient observation and reaction time to apparently access the complex motor skill of catching, but even he’s flinching.Dealing with attacks, whether in a competitive consensual fight, or a surprise attack or an escalated argument is no different. If you do not spot the telegraphs then your reaction is likely to be at the top of the list above, the earlier you see and recognise the telegraphs (not necessarily on a conscious level) the further down that list your response will be, particularly if you already have your hands in front of your face or body.
The less familiar you are with the telegraphs and the environment, the less likely you are to access a trained response. If you are unused to dealing with verbal aggression or the stimulus of multiple people moving and not knowing which one is likely to attack, then your brain will be more occupied with this along with ‘fight/don’t fight’ questions. As a result of this extra neural engagement you may be less likely to spot telegraphs that you would have identified with ease in a ‘cleaner’ competitive environment. The net result is that you are more likely to flinch.
Hands coming up so fast he drops his drink… but can you spot which common ‘uke’ technique is instinctive?
The good news is that you do not need to train the flinch – it is built in. The bad news is that if you are spending time working other more complicated methods of intercepting attacks then in the one instance when you will truly need them, when you are caught off guard by the ease of the attack (entry angle of attack, attitude of the attacker, speed of the attack and the environment in which the attack takes place), you’ve spent a large amount of your time honing a fairly redundant skill because you will flinch rather than perform that complex motor skill.
Now if there are movements in Kata that mimic the flinch – will practicing them improve your ability to flinch? No. Practicing them will improve your ability to fight because following the ‘fake’ flinch in the Kata you move from that position into a combative application. Thus what Kata can do is help you make a transition from a natural protective movement into a trained combative movement so fast that it seems reflexive.
This could be one of the most important things that Kata gives us. There are clear differences between the movements in sparring and those in Kata, and the key to those differences is that both are reflections of differing scenario and attack specific skill sets. The environment of the sparring and sport arena make redundant the employment of natural movements that the body will use in a ‘real’ arena (and if you’ve pulled off your sport techniques in that arena then either you hit first or the other guy telegraphed his intentions so clearly or attacked so weakly the ease of the attack was incredibly familiar and did not stretch you out of your comfort zone). Kata by contrast often mimics (though now in stylised form) the flinch and then practices moving from that to a combative strike. If you look at the extended arm set up common in various versions of kata for all of Karate’s receiving techniques – Age Uke, Shuto Uke, Uchi Uke, Gedan Barai and so forth you can see a protective motion to ward away danger and in many cases a hand attempting to shield the head.
In Karate Do Kyohan Funakoshi said that Kakewake Uke could be done palms open or closed, hands facing towards you or away. Does this look familiar?
If we are to make Kata a reflexive exercise then we need to be able to use its initiation point in reflex based techniques. As a result we need to mimic the flinch. To train the almost-reflexive movement from a flinch to a combative counter the Kata training needs to be paired. All the Kata drills I use initiate from either a flinch based movement against a habitual act of violence, a ‘failed’ Kata attacking/controlling movement following a flinch based movement, or a common mid fight redundancy position such as a clinch. As a result back in 2004 with the Heian Flow System I created an extensive Kata based sparring repertoire where techniques fitted together like lego and students began to unconsciously shift between techniques and strategies according to stimuli.
My current work on the Pinan and Heian Kata takes this a step further with the benefit of the experience of heavy contact scenario simulation training and hours of footage of watching how martial artists respond in such pressurised environments. When you consider how much time you’ve spent drilling your Kata solo, you may find it’s time you did them justice by taking them to the next level by experiencing their use as two man training systems. Paired Kata training might not look as beautiful as kumite or solo Kata, but it’s fun, it develops new skill sets, and it could prove to be the most useful element of your karate repertoire.