And the to-do list is somewhere between ambitious and overwhelming. Especially the writing section. And it's imperative to fight the paralysis that comes with having an excess of worthy goals. Things to do, things to do...
So let's make this quick.
Very few things are zero sum games. Outside of artificially imposed stuff (like the rules in a game. There are only sixteen chess pieces per side, only so many pieces of property in Monopoly) the only truly non-zero sums I can think of are space (literally the surface of the earth) and chemical elements, like Fe, iron. And exposed to human creativity, even those can be tweaked. There are only so many acres in Manhattan, but a skyscraper vastly increases the useable acreage by thinking in three dimensions. Money may have been a zero-sum game when we were on the gold or silver standard (although even then, it was never limited to one metal) but it certainly isn't now, and wealth never has been zero-sum.
Power, absolutely is not zero-sum. Increasing your intelligence does not decrease mine. Becoming more creative will not make me less creative. Your reps in the gym do not prevent me from doing my own reps (ooooh, though-- waiting in line for a squat rack is a zero-sum game. Limited resource of a specific object...until you apply human creativity and go outside and lift rocks.)
Power does have the effect of making other people who want to use power to coerce think. Coercion over powerless people has zero consequences. Coercion over powerful people is always risky. And thus evil people want to be surrounded by all the weak people possible. And they will claim that others getting strong is weakening them.
And look at the mechanics of that one very carefully. Because te other side is to claim that weakening the strong somehow, magically, strengthens the weak.
From a conversation with Anna Valdisseri when we talked in Sheffield. (I like the way she thinks, that's one of my highest compliments.) She had a unique way of looking at it. As best I can paraphrase:
Humans live in groups. We're social animals. When we see ourselves as pack animals we know that becoming more powerful as individuals makes the pack stronger. It's better for everyone. When we see ourselves as herd animals, we want all the other members to be weak because it increases our chances. If everyone is weak, the wolf will get someone else.
When something bad happens and hits the news, is your instinct to learn more and train harder so that you have options if it should ever happen around you? I started carrying regularly after the Luby's shooting in Texas because I realized I could not have contributed unarmed. If your instinct is to randomly disempower the people around you when bad things happen, that's a herd mentality.
Actually wrote this three weeks ago but stumbled on an internal monkey brain problem in the middle. Took a while to work it out.
This whole line of thought got launched because Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken started a dialogue about power dynamics in teaching-- and the can of worms got a whole lot bigger than either of us expected. I really don't know where that project is going. It could be a book or a class or something unexpected. But so far, just in the questions, the collaboration looks promising.
Power isn't an endstate. There are no weak or strong people, just people at different places on a given continuum. And power is not linear. I am stronger than K, but she is smarter and more artistic than I am. R has more money, but J has more skills. Q can access a deep level of viciousness, but W can access an equally deep level of empathy. Power is not a scale but a net of ever-interconnecting methods of affecting the world. And in each strand of the net, you have attributes and skills that both affect the strength.
But in the end, it is about ability to affect the world and, at least equally and maybe more: an ability to have choice in how much the world affects you.
And so when I say "strong" or "weak" in this case, it has nothing to do with where you are on this scale. It has everything to do with which direction you are moving in. Because you are either getting better, or you are getting worse. If you don't get stronger, you will stagnate and get weaker. You can't rest on this. And that "can't' isn't meant as an admonition, but as a simple statement of fact.
If you are getting better, you are strong. Maybe not as strong as you want or you could be. Certainly not the strongest in the world. But the very act of seeking to be better, to be able to affect the world more, is strength.
And, conversely, if you are not striving to be better, you have accepted entropy and you are weak. Doesn't matter if you have the genetics to be a world power lifter. Doesn't matter if you inherited wealth and political power. Doesn't matter what you tell yourself so that you can sleep at night. If you aren't striving to be better you are, by my definition weak. Sorry.
And there's another dynamic here, because power is only a small part of it. You are already powerful. You have a brain bigger than our ancient ancestors. If you have a decent diet you are likely much bigger. You have better communication skills. You have access to information your ancestors could never dream. And your ancestors conquered the world. With half of your gifts, with nothing much beyond rudimentary communication skills and opposable thumbs, your ancestors became the apex predator of this planet. Do you get that? You are fucking mighty.
That is your birthright. That is who you are. And no animal naturally weakens itself. Tigers never starve themselves to look better to other tigers. Snakes don't slither over coals to show their bravery.
So the second dimension is not just power, but comfort with power. If you have a working brain and a decent amount of mobility, anyone on this planet could assassinate anyone else. I may be stronger than K, but she is comfortable enough with the strength and skill that she has that she has no doubt she could make me pay. People who are comfortable with power have to be respected.
There's a huge amount here that Tammy and I are slowly working on-- the ethical element, toxic relationships to power, whether power can be given or must be taken-- a ton of stuff. But I think the bones lie in these two things:
Power is about growth or stagnation.
Comfort with power is required to use it.
The blog is my place for thinking out loud. That was easier when it was the anonymous meanderings of some random jail guard poking at internal stuff. The biggest mystery and challenge in my life right now is the business end. I want to get good at it because I hate being bad at anything. And I must do it without compromising my principles. So far, no problem.
This will be kind of random. I may not publish it (I already have several posts written that I'll never publish-- some too dark, some too personal). I may take each paragraph and expand it into a post. I don't know yet.
In this discussion, there is a cross-over to another project I'm working on. We have all been systematically lied to. There is a belief that is so common it is considered axiomatic, but I believe it started as a deliberate lie with a deliberate purpose:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."-- Lord Acton (titled, landed, seat in parliament...)
What better way to keep good people powerless than to tell them they will become bad people if they gain power? And it has the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy because once the edict is taken to heart, only people who are already bad seek power. So we see corrupt people in positions of power and assume that the power made them that way.
It's a lie. A systematic lie woven into the fabric of society for the express purpose of keeping good people from ever being strong enough to challenge those in power. If you believe this (and I did for years, an assumption so deep I never even considered challenging it) you have been brainwashed. And the brainwashing has made you a servant to your enemy.
This is coming up in the discussion. Mac made a comment on the last post that earning a living and getting good enough to teach are both full time endeavors, and that made it hard to do both. The math doesn't work for that. You have to make a living anyway, why does a career at the Sheriff's Office not make it just as hard to do both? When we have arguments we can show to be mathematically false, what are we really arguing for? I think we are driven to preserve our own brainwashing.
And, aside-- I do need to make a living, and I really only had two marketable skills when I came back from Iraq. But money is not how I keep score. I started teaching JJ because there was no one nearby who could play the games I wanted to play at the level I wanted to play them. I was creating my own playmates. My current goal: Weak people annoy me. They whine and complain and play bullshit little political games (and the loud blustery ones, whatever they tell themselves, are in the weak camp as well.) If I can't find enough strong people, it's up to me to make them. And that's probably more than you wanted to know about my inner motivations.
I'm doing everything wrong and it's working.
No advertising. Only social media is FB and that's still a personal page. I don't send out e-mail blasts. For that matter, I just have a few regional e-mail lists and people have to ask to be put on it. I don't list the agencies or special groups I've worked for. For the first three years I charged for a whole weekend what a few others in this field charge per person for a weekend. (Not quite true anymore-- it would be for the cost of about two people.) And there are very few openings left on my schedule this year, and it was almost full before I even opened it...
That implies there are some universal principles that work, that go deeper than just common business wisdom. Not sure what they are, but I have a pretty good idea what works for me.
Training in the martial arts can be a serious business.
- Physical Fitness
- Personal Discipline
- Improved Concentration
- Self Defence
Listing the most common reasons why adults and children join or study a martial art, they all appear to be serious. Despite all the rewards that they bring, training in the martial arts can be difficult, demanding, frustrating and even painful. The rewards themselves are bestowed so incrementally that they are often unnoticed by the practitioner and this can have a detrimental effect on motivation.
The crux of the matter is that if we aren’t enjoying the training then it is hard to stay motivated to continue. The destination will not be reached if the route isn’t travelled, and the act of travelling itself has to be fun. It really is the journey and not the destination that is important.
Skill development requires repetition. It’s easy for that to become routine and boring and I am sure that like many other instructors I have lost students in the past because I failed to utilise enough variety to disguise that repetition in ways that maintained the sense of excitement and fun.
We expect training to stretch us, to be demanding, to be tiring. Even when it is all those things we should also normally expect to leave training with a smile on our face, but not the smile of someone who feels pleased through the self -denial of a diet or having eaten something ‘healthy’ rather than a treat they wanted. We should leave with the smile of a person that has had fun, because no matter how worthy the ‘end goals’ it is the enjoyment of a class that will draw us back to each new lesson and ensure our progress.
There are many different approaches that can help to keep each lesson fresh and fun:
- training at different speeds
- trying different combinations
- setting different challenges
- playing stimulus games to improve tactile, visual or auditory response time
- applying techniques in different ways
- pairing with different people
- mixing up the order of the class
- identifying and reinforcing strengths.
There are many reasons why I train and teach, there are SMART goals that I have set myself and my students, but the thing that draws me to each class is that I want to enjoy myself and have fun.
The destination keeps changing, but I’m here for the fun of the journey.