Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Broad and Narrow

Van Canna is a senior practitioner of Uechi-ryu.  He frequently posts on the Uechi BBS.  He can be obnoxious and rude and send people into tooth-gnashing rages.  I dearly love the man.  He wrote something recently that goes to the core of a basic difference between different styles of training, different styles of thinking:

However, if I were lost on a mountain side and, after asking directions to one person how to get down, he were to say: ‘just follow the sun and your ‘homing instincts’ and you will get there’ _ 

Then if asking the same directions to another person and he said ‘follow the sun along particular pathways _ as I will show you how to recognize’ I would take the second person’s advice.

It made me think of survival training.  There are two general ways to approach it.  Some instructors get very specific: this kind of wood makes a good fireboard, these plants are edible. And some teach you how to find out for yourself: how to test wood with your thumbnail to estimate it's suitability, how to tell if a plant is likely poisonous.

Directions off a mountain, survival, self-defense.  If you can get particular instructions for your particular situation, it will always be superior.  But, if you don't get to choose which mountain you will be lost on or which biome you will crash in or what will attack you, the generalist training is more likely to help.  Learning to pay attention, general principles, general strategies. Or templates, specific techniques.

Pay attention is easy. General principles? For survival: thermodynamics, hydration.  For Combatives, structure and power generation. Just examples. General strategies? For survival, Shelter Water Fire Food, in that order. Regardless of climate hypothermia will kill you faster than thirst, thirst faster than starvation.  For combatives two of the classics are "do damage" and "disrupt balance."

If you know what you are getting into, you can train for it specifically. That's one of the big advantages of training for tournament or training a cultural art.  In classical JJ I knew exactly who my bad guy would be.  If you don't know, that's a different set of priorities and a different way to train.

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