Saturday, August 01, 2009

Integration Blues

While waiting for critiques on the first draft of book two, I've been working on the next one.  Frankly, it's driving me nuts. I'm trying to explain the nuts and bolts of why things work.  There is a reason why some small people can make joint locks work in a real fight and some can't.  There are physical and mental nuances that effective fighters do differently than ineffective fighters.

I'm trying to pick out the most important of these nuances, most of which are just applied physics, and explain them in a way that makes them useful.  That part is really easy.  Where it gets tricky and frustrating is that nothing stays in its neat little box.

Each thing affects the other thing.  Structure is important (but sometimes structure is utilizing free-fall, the exact opposite of rigidity), but compounded with exploiting gravity, and ... and ... it is amazing.  Combine and practice some of the principles right and you have contact telepathy.

None of it should be completely new to most well-trained martial artists-- but some of it will have been just lip service and some is in the motion but not really explained or understood by the instructors.  Structure is a good example.  I've known many people with excellent structure who didn't know it.  It was just something they picked up by training and when they became instructors they assumed that everyone just 'picks it up.'  Some do.  I think most don't, and it's one of the reasons why many students never live up to their instructors.  Learning some of these very critical nuances are left up to luck.

All of these are in the physical drills of almost every art that I have seen, but you can get through the drills, you can get through the entire syllabus of most systems and never actually learn or understand the stuff that is in there. You can do the techniques 'well enough' or even very well, and entirely miss whole principles.

But it is frustrating to write.  All of the chapters so far refer to multiple other chapters... so which goes first?  Each chapter starts with an experience where that particular principle was critical, but almost all of the principles played a role in almost all of the stories.  Leverage points make better sense if you understand base and Center of Gravity first, but base and CoG are easier to grasp if you understand leverage.

It's going to take a lot of work from the readers, I think. I'll make it as easy as I can, but in the end people can only effectively read one thing at a time, so the flow will never be the same as a force incident where multiple things are happening at multiple levels.

Training people is much easier than writing. 


Ratatosk said...

Instead of structure . . . how about frame? And I don't mean the physical bodies involved; but each fighter brings their structures to the fight, and that frames what is and is not possible.

Sometimes you get lost in the parts. I used to write math text books; full of precisely defined rapidly mutable parts that only have meaning in relation to each other. How can you catch that poetry for everyone?

You can't. Some people will never see the magic in calculus or even 2+2. They aren't bad or stupid for it either. I can teach them to enough to get them through their life well.

Once I made the choice of audience, the direction of writing came much more easily.

Mark Jones said...

What occurred me while reading this post was the "exploded diagram" you sometimes see of a piece of machinery.

Maybe you just present The Incident up front, mentioning all the points that it illustrates in as much or as little details as you think necessary. Then in each chapter you go over it again, pointing out how the particular principle discussed in THIS chapter applies.

Or maybe a "Green Eggs & Ham" approach, which each chapter adding another principle to those previously described, and pointing how it interacts with them.

Yeah. Gonna be tough to get all that in writing however you do it.

Rory said...

Ratatosk (nice handle, BTW)-
On the non-physical, there is already a section on framing and reframing, which is close to what I am reading here, I think as opposed to physical structure, which is using bone and ligament instead of muscle as much as possible. Maybe some won't get it, but I feel compelled to try.

Mark- Yeah. I originally thought a "Green Eggs and Ham" approach but tentacles are reaching out and through. I wish I'd seriously studied a complex physical science like hydrodynamics or meteorology so I could model how that was taught. More work. Trust the readers.

Ratatosk said...

Ever feel like language isn't big enough?

Well, I look forward to next book and the one after. Meditations is fantastic -- when I see people browsing through books in the martial arts section at my local B&N, I point them at yours.

James said...

The Force Science Institute has some interesting information on how we process information during deadly force encounters. Apparently, athletes at the top of their game ( the top 1%) process visual information differently than the rank and file players. They identify and react to things quicker. There are some studies being done now to track these elite athletes' eye movements to see if there is something they do that can be taught to others. Similarly, the top 1% of Operators also process information differently so there is the idea that we study how they do it. Catching that "lightning in a bottle" and then distilling it for consumption is probably the most difficult task in the world. I don't envy you. Just teaching MA is sometimes discouraging. I once got state money on a grant to teach our officers Aikido. One of my fellow Sgts, a SWAT guy, was learning mae ukemi. He sighted in on the mat, kicked his legs out from under himself, and dove into the mat at a 90 degree angle, driving is right shoulder into the deck and dislocating it. The Godan who was instructing the class stood by me shaking his head and said "25 years. And I've NEVER seen anyone do that."

Vaughn said...

Let us know when the books are available for public consumption.

jks9199 said...

I think the principles you're talking about go in cycles in training. Maybe you can replicate that in the book.

I know... doesn't mean much that way!

Figure two to three "cycles" within the book, where you address each principle at a level and depth appropriate to the cycle. First pass is overview and quick ideas. Second takes it deeper and ties some of the first cycle together. Third goes deeper still, and ties them together even deeper. (Personally, I think more than three cycles would get pretty unwieldy...)

Let me give an example, 'cause I doubt it's very clear yet.

Let's look at a simple step-block-punch sequence. First pass, you're looking at the step, the structure that supports the block, and the mechanics to deliver the punch from the block. Second pass, you look at how the step sets up the block, how the block sets up the punch, and how they all tie together. Third pass shows how the step can eliminate the need for the block, allowing the block to become a strike or trap and the punch becomes a finish or throw.

Am I making any sense? (Trying to break this out generically is half the hard part...)

The same sort of thing can be done with an encounter... First pass is the gross mechanics and dealing with it. Second gets into how to shape and control the encounter for better effect; what's going on from both sides that led to it. Third pass is more into aftereffects and adapting within the moment.

Viro said...

I'v read a programming book that had a similar problem. I believe it was Martin Fowler's "Refactoring," but am not certain.

He dealt with the problem by presenting a "see also" list at the end of each section. This made the book less of a linear "start to finish" journey, but the structure made it very useful to dial in on something of interest and then follow the links to the other related concepts.

Mark H said...

You may have provided a clue in your response to Ratatask by referencing anatomy. The book sounds like the interdependency of the subjects mirrors texts on anatomy.

Breaking down and representing the varied systems that make up the human organism, but the interplay of these systems is crucial in understanding the functioning of the body.

You may want to attempt to model some of the better texts on the functioning of the body

Fred Ross said...

You might find Polya's 'How to Solve It' interesting, as he had almost the same problem in a very different setting. His approach was to write a short core with lots of references into a (internally massively cross referenced) dictionary which made up the majority of the book. I'm not sure the solution was good but it was at least adequate.

Charles James said...

Hi, Sgt Miller; I know I am really late and you have figured out the book but just in case...stop thinking to one thing at a time and one moment at a time.

Stop the monkey dance on what should be what, choose a topic, write about it, let it sit in a pile.

When done, then see if you see a pattern...if I get you right it is like the "chaos of violence," you just do it instinctively.

Your instincts are good, let them work for you.