My Friday student is special. I teach her about violence and criminals. She teaches me about teaching and about myself. I'm getting the best end of that deal. We work principles and concepts and scenarios. Very, very little technique, almost no repetetive technique. It feels odd because it is so different from the way that I was taught. I mentioned that and she dragged out the feeling into words:
Every truly great fighter that I know has followed a very similar path in their growth. To be clear, I'm not talking about tournament champions or martial artists- I'm talking about fighters. A man who stopped a jail riot by breaking the ring leaders spine. Another who was stabbed and... broke the guy's spine. A person who took down an enraged, violent drugged-up threat, a threat who got the first move at close range and put him down without injuring him, controlling with his knees alone and politely asked him to stop resisting. An old, old man who had retired from jobs in the military and the civilian police force immobilizing a threat that two hot young martial artist bouncers were struggling with and doing it without spilling his coffee (thanks, Jim).
The path was the same- they trained hard for many years on technique. Thousands of reps, thousands of applications and sparring bouts and matches. Then they were exposed to real violence- not a single incident, but extensively usually working as cops. They realized how little of their training matched reality. The ones who didn't become good, quit training. The ones who became great fighters started ruthlessly stripping down their training: comparing each thing they were taught to what they used, always aiming to simplify and make more adaptable.
When I first started teaching, I had this list of what I wanted students to know at each stage. Looking at that list, there are techniques on there that I don't even teach or think about anymore. Specific, detailed techniques that don't fit with any practical strategy.
What I am trying to do is skip the first two steps with my students.
Instead of learning a hundred or more joint locks, they learn what makes locks work (which takes less than an hour to cover completely) and play with the idea, melding it with their own natural movement. They hopefully learn the dynamics of violent encounters instead of memorizing possible attacks and scripted responses.
The students should be spared the second stage. Rob asked me what I wanted from teaching in an e-mail. Part of my reply: "It's very important to me that you both exceed my level of skill- but without the blurry vision from a scarred cornea, arthritis from broken fingers, screws in the knee, fingers that go numb if the arms are above the head at night and memory loss from concussions. You guys do not, IMO need to learn from experience if you can run on a broken fibula or reduce a shoulder dislocation in a fight and keep going. It was important to me to know, but I'm paying for the knowledge and always will be."
I don't want them to pay. I do want them to have the skill.
So it feels like wandering in the darkess. It feels right and good and efficient to teach this way. It would be easier if I could point to one person who has already done it.
That's what the Friday student dragged out.
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