Depth of Game

Rory Miller's Blog - Thu, 2015-02-26 20:30
"How deep is your game?" has been coming up a lot, lately.
Erik Kondo, a friend and one of the CRGI team wrote a draft article about becoming a skilled conflict manager. Everything he wrote was absolutely true, but everything could also be distorted or even used against you, if you only relied on the surface interpretations. I offered to do a riff on Erik's article. Still working on it.

But wait, there's more. We did the first CRGI IDC (Instructor Development Course) in Sheffield over the last two days. It was about the methods of principles-based teaching. In one segment, the attendees created a list of difficult students and brainstormed solutions. They did good on the list and the solutions. But the answers were largely one-dimensional. You see behavior X. How do you stop behavior X?

And that led into yet another discussion of depth of game.

Because you can easily add another dimension to what you see that gives another dimension for solutions. Things happen in time, people change over time. This behavior didn't arise full blown, it escalated. And it could, possibly, be solved immediately-- probably with specific consequences-- or the behavior can be altered over time with different consequences.

And you can add the dimension of mental depth as well. Where is this behavior coming from? What are the reasons? If you teach a non-contact system (though I can't think why anyone would) and a student keeps making excessive contact, he might be an ass who needs to be taught a lesson. Or he might be a kid going through a growth spurt. Or a vet who is blind in one eye. Or a former victim who lashes out under stress. And that's another avenue to fix things.

And there is the solution dimension. Stopping the behavior is only one outcome or one piece of the potential outcome. How will your tactics change if you set your goal not to stop the behavior but to make a great student? In a cop class, you always have the disgruntled guy who was ordered to attend training. Most instructors have some kind of tactic to stop the spread of his or her verbal poison. Since ConCom, my goal has been to get them on my side before lunch.

Last example. We talked about Priniciples a lot in the IDC, as you would expect from a class on Principles-Based teaching. One of the principles I used as an example was structure. Many people, if they can distinguish structure from stiffness in the first place, think of using structure to conserve striking force "Hitting with bone."

And that's good and valid. But it's deeper than that. I think any true principle you can dive into as deep as you want to go. In under a minute, I demonstrated power, unbalancing, bone slaving, void defense, vectors along bones versus angled against, disruption... all just structure. And I completely forgot using bone to rest and resist in grappling or structuring as a defense to joint locks. And as cool as all that is, I know I'm barely scratching the surface.

My game could be much deeper.

Solo Skills

Rory Miller's Blog - Fri, 2015-02-20 00:40
Once upon a time, I'd elected to go into a cell and talk down an extremely agitated inmate, and it wasn't working. One of the big keys to talking down people in altered mental states (bad drug reactions, stress that makes them temporarily out of control, or truly unstable mental illness doesn't really matter much) is to lower the adrenaline. Which, since only time dissipates adrenaline, means the golden rule is "Do nothing to increase the subject's adrenaline."

And he was not calming down. He kept darting glances over my shoulder, and there was no way I was going to look. You don't make direct eye contact with excited mentals (it can be read as challenge or threat and adrenaline rises) but you give them full attention (read as respect). And if you glance away at the wrong time you can get badly hurt.

What was going on was that one of the rookies decided to ignore my instructions to stay out of sight. When dealing with potentially bad situations, you want the best back-up you can get, but when talking down an EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person-- you know it's tactically important because we have a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for it) if they see the backup they know that you're scared, and fear is contagious and their adrenaline rises.

So, despite specific instructions to stay out of sight, the kid (who was big enough to be imposing) was hanging right off my shoulder. Why? Because he wanted to see why I was so successful at dealing with EDPs. He wanted to see what I did first-hand.

This is a big teaching quandary for me. And research problem. The best way to learn real skills for high-risk, high-speed problems is to model them. You can learn theory in the classroom and you can practice the motions in the dojo, but real world applications are complex on many levels. Just talking to someone isn't a mere exchange of words, there are social, emotional, intellectual and status implications of the tiniest interaction. Being with someone who is skilled at handling problems and watching them handle those problems and maybe helping and definitely asking questions later is where the important stuff happens. It's the safest way for the stuff you learn in class to become a real skill you can apply.

But there are a handful of skills that are hard to model, because the skill is so hard to apply without the emotional protection of privacy. Imagine trying  to reassure a mother whose child has just died but start with, "Do you mind if I film this?"

Intersection, here. There are certain things, maybe everything but thinking about it, all the high-risk stuff, where the processing is more important than the event. Something terrible happens to you and it's terrible... but how you process it, how you come to think about it and understand it will make the difference between an incident you soon forget, one that makes you stronger, or one that continues to victimize you mentally for the rest of your life.

And helping someone process a big event is one of those skills that generally requires some privacy. "Let's go for a walk" as you wave the other people who want to help back. Absolute best thing for the primary, but as that rookie pointed out long ago, it denies the ability to learn by modeling.

I don't have a good answer for this one. The best stuff I have for talking people down is in "Talking Them Through." But teaching the skill, modeling... I don't have a solution for that. And it's one of the skills that can be badly bungled-- with horrible long-term consequences.

Ten reasons why your moves won’t work!

John Titchen's Blog - Tue, 2015-02-17 14:13

How many times have you heard someone remark

“That won’t work!”

about a particular tactic or training method?

Here are my top ten reasons why your tactics or training methods won’t work:

  1. You’re too close!
  2. You’re too far away!
  3. The angle of entry/application is wrong.
  4. This technique relies on a particular attack.
  5. You’re not unbalancing them enough.
  6. You’re unbalancing them too much.
  7. You’re training it too fast (for your skill level).
  8. You’re training too slow (to be effective).
  9. There’s no resistance.
  10. There’s too much resistance!

(11. Because (insert name here) said that (insert advice taken out of context here).)

When it comes to looking at training and tactics, everyone’s got an opinion. Criticism can be a great tool when applied correctly, but before we indulge in its use, we should look at whether we understand what is being done and why. Different training methods and tactics exist because different problems create different solutions. There is no single perfect solution for every problem. (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris)

So before we armchair criticise something from a different system, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether we’ve really understood what it is they’re trying to achieve. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that in the past I’ve criticised something because it didn’t fit the context of my approach, without acknowledging that it was designed for something else. It’s not something of which I’m proud. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make ours any brighter.

Criticising my own training is a different matter. When it comes to examining why your own training or tactics aren’t working, the list of ten above is a good check-list for why we might not be getting the results we want.

Train safely, criticise yourself regularly, and frame your solutions to the criticism positively using SMART approaches.

 


HAOV – Habitual Acts of Violence – revisiting 2005

John Titchen's Blog - Mon, 2015-02-09 18:37

Written in 2004, this article was first published by Traditional Karate Magazine in the UK in August 2005 as part of my ‘Practical Techniques’ series.

Practical Techniques

 There are many different elements that can combine to make a martial arts technique ‘practical’. Here ‘practical technique’ is defined as something that you would be able to use to defend yourself in a genuine time of need rather than in a sports competition. This is not to say that the techniques that serve well in martial art competitions are unsuitable for the street (since many are very effective), but rather to recognise that the two environments differ. Each short article in this series will look at a training principle that forms the roots of practical technique.

 

Habitual Acts of Violence

(HAOV)

One of the most important factors that all martial arts training aimed at practical self- defence should address is its relevance to the habitual acts of violence (HAOV) common to its locale. The value of having acquired an excellent defence against all the front kicks that your training partners in the dojo attempt to connect with you is diminished by the fact that it is a form of attack you are unlikely to have to defend yourself against in a bar or on the street. Even in this martial arts film-fueled age, most people don’t use effective kicks until their victim is already lying prone on the ground.

The term HAOV is a commonly used derivative of a term introduced by Patrick McCarthy, HAPV – habitual acts of physical violence. Both terms are interchangeable but I prefer the use of HAOV since it accommodates certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats.

If our martial arts training is to have any validity from a self defence perspective then it must address the HAOV that we are likely to face in a conflict situation. It is important here to address the real situation and not the media and film induced perceptions. While it is possible to gain a reasonable idea of pre-fight patterns in your locale by reading the brief assault descriptions (and police appeals for witnesses) in your local newspapers, the best sources overall are probably the statistics compiled by the Home Office. These are usually available through the easy access of the Internet.

A study made by Mike Maguire and Hilary Nettleton, (Home Office Research Study 265 – March 2003), Reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder – an evaluation of the ‘TASC’ project, contains information of direct relevance to all those who would address their training to the threat of alcohol related crime.

 

Location of incidents leading to hospital visits:

40% of all incidents occurred inside Licensed premises, a further 20% took place just outside. Only 24% of the incidents recorded took place elsewhere in the street.

 

Assaults: Type of violence Used:

The majority of attacks (46%) involved punches or kicks, while pushes accounted for 12%. Despite the majority of incidents taking place inside, only 10% involved the use of a bottle or a glass. These figures are slightly misleading since they refer to the end product of the event. The statistics do not show whether attacks involving punches and kicks were preceded by pushes. It is likely that punches tended to follow pushes while kicks tended to follow attacks that had already displaced the victim to the ground. According to the British Crime Survey (see below) punching or slapping occurred in 64% of incidents between strangers, grabbing/pushing in 43% (note the overlap percentage) and kicking in 24%. Incidentally these statistics suggest that you are more likely to be kicked by acquaintances (30% versus 24%) than strangers.

 

Sites of injuries sustained:

The majority of injuries sustained by casualties were to the Face/Neck/Head/Teeth (73%), while only 11% of injuries were to the Arms/Legs/Hands and only 3% to the Trunk.

The Home Office Online report (2003) by Tracey Budd into Alcohol related assault and the findings of the British Crime Survey offers further insights by providing useful information into the nature of attackers.

 

Attackers:

Alcohol-related incidents are more likely to involve multiple offenders than other incidents. Almost half of alcohol-related assaults between strangers involved more than one attacker. 38% of the incidents between acquaintances involved more than one person (In the 1999 survey detailed by Tracey Budd’s report into alcohol related assault 51% involved one offender, 17% two, 12% three, 21% four or more). The majority of alcohol related assaults involve men. In the case of incidents involving strangers, 90% were men only, 5% involved women and 5% a mixed group. The majority of stranger related incidents concerned men aged 16-24 whereas incidents involving acquaintances were more likely to occur in the over 25 group. Approximately one third of alcohol related assaults involved someone the victim considered as a friend.

One element that we have to contend with from a self-defence viewpoint is a confrontation where physical assault is the by-product, rather than perhaps the sole intent, of an attack. The statistics above were taken from alcohol related assaults, but according to Budd’s report these only account for 52% of all assaults. It is possible to gain further awareness of HAOV by studying available data on robberies such as that compiled by Jonathan Smith for the Home Office Research Study 254 (January 2003) into Personal Robbery.

 

Time:

Robberies are more likely to occur at night, although the likelihood of being robbed varies according to the age and sex of the victim. An example of this is that the elderly and young children are more likely to be targeted during the day, since they tend to be ‘available’ more at those times. According to the statistics compiled by Smith, approximately half of all robberies occurred between 1800 and 0200 hours and half of all personal robberies took place at the weekend.

 

The nature of the Robbery:

In a quarter of all cases (both men and women) the victim was physically attacked prior to any demands or robbery. Men were more likely to be confronted with a demand as the first point of contact than women (41% versus 25%), while women in turn were more likely to be subject to snatch attacks (37% versus 6%). Men were more likely than women to be engaged in conversation first as a con tactic to establish their vulnerability to robbery.

 

The Location of the Robbery:

We all know areas we believe to be vulnerable and thus try to avoid. This tendency is not unknown to criminals. 50% of all robberies took place in the street against only 2% in subways, 4% in parks and 5% on footpaths.

 

In 2001, in an article published in the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, R. J. Nash presented data that had been gathered from a Home Office study group formed to investigate violence within modern society, based upon evidence taken from Europe and the United Kingdom. This article listed, in frequency order, the most common pattern of attacks that were made on both men and women. These lists are reproduced here by the kind permission of Jeff Nash and the editor of the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, Bob McMahon.

 

Male on Male, Close Quarters:

  1. One person pushes, hands to chest, which is normally followed by the pushee striking first, to the head.
  2. A swinging punch to the head.
  3. A front clothing grab, one handed, followed by punch to the head.
  4. A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a head butt.
  5. A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a knee to the groin.
  6. A bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
  7. A lashing kick to groin/lower legs.
  8. A broken bottle/glass jabbed to face.
  9. A slash with knife, most commonly a 3 to 4″ lockblade knife or kitchen utility knife. (Apart from muggings, sexual assaults and gang violence, the hunting/combat type knife is seldom used)
  10. A grappling style head lock.

Only one occasion of a well known boxer, caught on night club cctv, opening the conflict with a hook punch to the body.


Offences against the person, male on female:

This data was gathered from interviews with victims and offenders and from statements. Data only covers robbery/sexual methodology and changes relative to first contact with victim ie., venue/ night/day etc.

Domestic violence is not covered as this is a specific subject of its’ own.

  1. The victim was approached from the rear/side/front, a threat was made with a weapon, and then the weapon was hidden. Then the victim’s right upper arm was held by the attacker’s left hand and the victim was led away.
  2. A silent or rushing approach was made from the victim’s rear, and then a rear neck/head lock applied and the victim dragged away.
  3. The same approach as in #2, with a rear waist grab. The victim was carried/dragged away, normally into bushes/alley etc.
  4. The victim was pinned to a wall with a throat grab with the attacker’s left hand. A weapon-shown threat was made, and then the weapon hidden, and the victim led away.
  5. The victim was approached from rear/ front/side. The attacker grabbed the victim’s hair with his left hand, and then she was dragged away.

 

 The Most Common Wrist Grips, Male On Female:

  1. The attacker’s left hand, thumb uppermost, gripping the victim’s raised right wrist. The attacker threatens/ gesticulates with his right hand.
  2. With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker grips the victim’s right upper arm with his left hand and her right wrist with his right hand.
  3. The victim raises both arms, with both of her wrists gripped. The attacker’s hands are vertical with the attacker’s thumbs uppermost.
  4. With the victim’s arms down, the attacker grabs both upper arms.
  5. With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker’s left hand grabs just below the right elbow, and his right hand grabs her wrist.

 

These studies are by no means exhaustive and I would recommend that anyone interested in this subject engage in further research of their own. What these studies can do is provide us with important information as to the nature of the attacks that we are likely to face. The techniques we choose to drill should be aimed at countering HAOV:

We should train predominantly to fight an attacker under the influence of alcohol. We must therefore expect a higher pain threshold and select techniques accordingly.

We should consider that attacks are as likely to occur in the confines of indoor spaces as outside and thus not rely on defences that require large leg movements.

We should train to expect 70% of the strikes to be aimed at head height.

We should expect to be grabbed or pushed prior to a physical blow.

We should expect to be attacked by a man in his physical prime.

We should expect a 50% likelihood of being engaged by more than one assailant. Training in percussive techniques should take priority over locks. If your health allows – practice running.

 

Postscript

This August 2005 Traditional Karate Magazine article was a condensed version of a chapter in my first book: Heian Flow System: effective karate kata bunkai. The information presented related to research on violent crime conducted between 1999 and 2004. I first heard of the HAPV and HAOV terms while reading Bill Burgar’s work on Gojushiho (Five Years: One Kata) and meeting and training with Bill and Rick Clark. Before that I had focused on researching violent crime and not used an acronym. There are a number of different terms in use in the martial arts and professional confrontation management communities to describe aggressive and violent behaviour patterns. The memorable term ‘Monkey Dance’, coined by Rory Miller, is now commonly used to describe pre- fight behaviours (where humans have much in common with other primates). Some use the term PIA (Primary Initiation Attack) to describe the initial means of physical assault. I prefer the more widely used HAOV since it highlights the inclusion of certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats (what I might call Primate Posturing and Rory Miller calls Monkey Dancing). These are the point where avoidance training, the acknowledgement of flinch responses when caught ‘off-guard’ and your own personal protection strategies should come into play – before any physical violence begins. I continue to use HAOV as in my experience it is now the most common term for the subject matter in the international Anglophone martial arts community. The term HAV is a recognised abbreviation for a medical condition, a form of aircraft and a form of media among other things. HAPV is normally associated with Hamster Polyoma Virus. As a result HAOV is useful for disambiguation.

I’ve been continuing to collate and analyse information since the above article was written,  and I may publish that at a future date as it has guided my training and teaching. In the meantime I hope this old data (still statistically on par with modern percentages) on crime in England and Wales is of interest.


Bend over and take it!

John Titchen's Blog - Tue, 2015-01-27 17:05

It’s not what you think…

When I say ‘bend over and take it’ I’m envisaging the difference between form and function in combative posture.

In many of my application pictures there is a noticeable difference between my posture in paired work and that in the solo form of the kata.

As karateka gain experience they learn that stances naturally adjust according to need, and as a result they may become longer, higher or deeper as circumstances dictate. Different applications or variables will cause shifts between what we recognise as stances, so while a form might illustrate a movement in a front stance or a cat stance, circumstances may dictate something more akin to a rooted stance, a back stance or a straddle stance.

Eagle eyed readers of my blog or my books might have noticed that invariably, when I am in tactile contact with a training partner, or following through, I never hold my back at a right angle to the ground. This is not accidental ‘bad posture’ nor is it the result of an injury. Often this is the case when the level of tactile contact shown in the photo is minimal, because at the start of the movement a fair degree of weight was actively driving against me.

No matter how good your stance or footwork is, having a straight back while resisting physical force from another person is biomechanically unsound.

The greater the level of force you are resisting, the more necessary it is to brace appropriately to take the load properly without placing undue stress in the small of the back, or compromising your balance, and in general the greater the angle of back (and depth of stance and thus angle of shin) required.

There is a difference between lifting an object and exerting or resisting force along other planes of movement.

You may be able to push a car with a straight back once you have got it moving, but to initiate the push the optimum position is to lean forward. You would not see a rugby scrum lock together bolt upright.

So, if you are engaging in force on force close quarter karate against resisting training partners I offer this small piece of advice:

bend over and take it.


Hot Mess

Rory Miller's Blog - Fri, 2015-01-23 18:07
Back from a no-internet writing retreat on the Oregon Coast. Did over 5000 words in a single day on the "How to Teach" manuscript that has been stuck. Feels good, the information is good. But the book itself (or, at least the conception of the book) feels like a disorganized mess.

Realistically, this feels like a new area. Most teaching methods are traditional, in the sense that they were handed down instead of purpose built. Most are centered around a school paradigm, with a high status instructor and low status students. And most assume that a problem is a problem, that in some way getting skilled at force is like getting skilled at math or engineering or medicine. But there aren't a lot of fields where you have to make quick, accurate decisions with partial information under an adrenaline dump. And in those fields, the most important part of instruction doesn't necessarily come in the class or at the academy-- things are set up very carefully to ensure that the first real encounters don't happen alone. Officers get an FTO. Paramedics work with a partner. Soldiers get assigned to a squad. Civilian self-defense doesn't have the modeling aspect that is so important to adjusting from training to application.

And I don't know the answer either. I have a collection of really important pieces. But a collection of pieces, as a writing project, looks like a mess.

The things I want to cover:

  • The problem, as outlined above-- training for high stakes, low information, low margin of error rapidly evolving situations.
  • Time in emergencies. Discretionary time, time distortion, stuff like that.
  • Evaluating sources. Why social sciences are mistrusted in professional violence fields.
  • Qualities of effective emergency techniques
  • Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Definitions, values and drawbacks. This one is definitely the heart of the matter
  • Scenario training
  • Experience thresholds that rewire your brain and pitfalls and values of teaching from the different thresholds and how to handle teaching to people of different experience levels than your own.
  • Dogma and it's effects. Tribalism versus truth
  • Teaching adults/adult learning theory
  • Big section on teaching professionals including designing lesson plans to standard, evaluation, getting lesson plans approved, required paperwork, coming in as an outsider...
  • Testing effectiveness, evaluating "best practices"
  • Related, the relationship between rules, policy and sympathetic magic. Ritualization of bureaucracy
  • Working in the political reality (finding the line between effectiveness and policy and law; that the rules for how to teach are written around current models, not effectiveness)
  • Bad student profiles and trouble shooting
  • Designing short and long-term curricula
  • Integrating skills (e.g. often, for police, DTs, handgun, baton, OC and Taser are taught in separate classes as separate skills.)
  • Ethics and judgment under survival pressure
  • Training and writing policy for Black Swan events
  • Teaching homogenous versus diverse groups; diversity/homogeneity on different scales
  • Related to above, possibly some advice for people who have never worked in certain environments. Some things that seem like attacks are actually tests, for instance.
  • Explicit power dynamics
  • Glitch hunting and countering social conditioning
  • Managing a career as an instructor
  • Questions, unknowns and twilight zone experiences for some of the sections.
It's a lot. It's loosely related, but feels like it's all over the place. This is the list of things I think I can write about with some value... grrrr. It just looks like a disorganized mess. A shotgun blast of data.
But the first rule of writing is to finish the damn thing. I can organize when the pieces are all done.

DON'T START BELIEVING

Ron Goin's Blog - Mon, 2015-01-19 17:28
DON'T START BELIEVING
ADVENTURES IN SELF-DECEPTION
"Don't stop believing."Journey
"People are crazier than anybody."Ron Goin
I was chatting online not to long ago with a guy who believes in Reiki.  And not just any old Reiki mind you.  No, this guy believes in "remote" Reiki.  

Just to catch you up, Reiki is this type of new age-y "therapy" in which a Reiki practitioner (often called a "master") moves his or her hands near the client's body to manipulate "energy fields".  No physical contact is made.   It's all done in the air, inches away from the skin.  Reiki practitioners claim to be able to help with all kinds of health problems from basic relaxation all the way up to treating disease and injury.  

But in "remote" Reiki, they go the extra mile, literally--they claim that they can send energy manipulation across time and space.  

Let's say, for example, that you have a torn rotator cuff, but you live in, oh I dunno, let's say Siberia.  Well, a remote Reiki master could wave his hands in his rumpus room in Des Moines, and soon these vibrations will travel miles and miles, cross different time zones, and suddenly you'll have full range of motion.  

So, in my online chat I said something like, "Surely you must be joking, you don't really believe that, do you?" half expecting the guy to say "Yes I do, and don't call me Shirley."  

Instead the guy said he didn't just believe it, he KNEW it.  He even put "KNEW" in upper case.

He knows it works.  No evidence is needed, at least no evidence that would meet the modern definition of the word.  No double blind testing.  No statistics.  No peer-reviewed analysis.  He just knows.  Excuse me, he KNOWS.

In another conversation I had with a religious person, a guy told me something similar.  "Prayer works; prayer actually changes things," he said with absolute conviction.  "I KNOW it works.  I've personally experienced the benefits of prayer."  

(Note:  He didn't put "know" in upper case, 'cause he was talking, but he said it more emphatically than the rest of the conversation, so that counts).  

He told me that he no longer craved alcohol and cigarettes, and that he now goes to church regularly and reads scripture daily. I said something like, "But that doesn't really prove anything.  Lots of people just go cold turkey and give up stuff  all the time, and tons of people make conscious decisions to change their lives--and stop doing terrible things.  They head to the gym.  They go on diets.  They stop smoking.  They quit wearing those hideous hipster hats."

He was not swayed.  He had dropped anchor, and it was holding fast.  He sincerely believed the bumper sticker that reads, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!"

This "knowledge", this faith, this act of believing with no evidence whatsoever, is an odd thing.  

David Schneider of Rice University said, "Huge numbers of our beliefs seem so grounded in reality or so much a part of our culture that it seems silly to question them and an empty academic exercise to seek their sources. On the other hand, most of us, at least when we are being thoughtful, recognize that other of our beliefs may have fragile contact indeed with any known larger reality. Furthermore people hold anomalous beliefs with as much conviction as we hold our unproblematic beliefs, and they often turn the tables on us by suggesting that we are the people who are out of touch with reality."

So, somebody believes some weird thing like ghosts, or alien abductions, or Sasquatch, or mind control via chemtrails, but when we question it, WE end up being the weird ones.

As readers of my blog know, I have said one or two (or 17) critical things about the martial arts; i.e., pressure point knockouts and chi manipulation.  I routinely suggest to my nuttier friends to IX-NAY on the I-CHAY.  

Most turn a deaf ear to my suggestions.  It's like they have a hearing problem that even a Reiki master couldn't heal.

So here's the deal.  We, you and me, us, all have weird beliefs.  Mark Twain knew this.  He wrote, "When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition.  I doubt if I could do it myself."

Fortunately, training in critical thinking and the rational process of inquiry can have an impact and begin to overcome some of the mental obstacles of superstition,
belief in the paranormal, and a whole host of personal biases. 

My own journey from faith-based acceptance to factual-based thinking took many years.  After years of ignorance I made a commitment to familiarize myself with the science I should have learned in school, and I read hundreds of books and articles.  Slowly the dimmer switch brought light to my cob-web covered, dusty attic of a brain.  I now no longer recognize the person I once was, and I find that the style of thinking about the world that I used to have is foreign and laughably embarrassing.

In his contribution to Edge's 2012 Annual Question, Nathan Myhrvold wrote about what he thinks of his favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation--the scientific method:  "Stories about different aspects of the world can be questioned skeptically, and tested with observations and experiments. If a story survives the tests then provisionally at least one can accept it as something more than a mere story; it is a theory that has real explanatory power. It will never be more than a provisional explanation—we can never let down our skeptical guard—but these provisional explanations can be very useful. We call this process of making and vetting stories the scientific method."

As Carl Sagan once said, "You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don't see things as clearly as you do.  We have to guard carefully against it."




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