Young Nick made a connection today and I want to run with it.
I love martial arts and train in the most traditional of the traditional, but at the same time I am acutely aware of some of the holes. The things that bother me most are rarely in the systems. You may not like kata, but I often see things in kata that are ten times as good for nasty shit as the sparring. And normally, the instructors neither know or understand what it is I see. Then, instead of acknowledging they don't know, which is the first step of learning, they guess.
When you guess, you are guessing and uncertain. When your instructor teaches his guess, it becomes fact and an article of faith. My beef with traditional martial arts is rarely with the techniques, but with the training methods. Sometimes it seems like a committee was assembled to come up with the worst possible way to teach combat survival and that became the martial arts.
The side effects of this can be obvious and pernicious or subtle and pernicious. From the instructor who drags the edge of a knife across his own throat with every disarm to the students that swear their instructor hits without moving, when everyone not trained (or brainwashed) in that school can clearly see him move. (My favorite response, when I asked about this on a forum years ago (as best I remember it): "Skilled internal artists do not use the word 'movement' the way ordinary people do.") He may simply not have been moving by internal definition, I guess.
The most compelling evidence, in my experience, is being told by one instructor (who insisted on being called a master) that a particular skill would take at minimum a decade to understand... and having another instructor teach it in about thirty minutes. If you can't teach simple things quickly (and lots of these deep secrets are just super-simple and super-refined body mechanics) I have to assume that you don't actually know what you are doing. You might be able to do it. You may be able to lead people in the general direction of the same skill. But that doesn't mean you know what you do.
After talks about this and martial politics, Nick referred to the difference between mission-oriented and longevity-oriented groups. Bingo.
This stuff arose in harsh times, and generally were founded by survivors and driven and improved by survivors and people who wanted to be survivors. Teaching theory was, what? Memorize stories and motions? The amount of information available to any specific individual was limited to personal experience and the stories of friends and relatives.
You knocked the bad guy flat and took his sword and stuck it in his neck? Cool! How did you do it?
There is a qualitative change when things become systems. They become tribal identities. In that instant, the power shifts from the survivors (and those who want to be) to those who want to preserve the system. A cabal or individual suddenly decides whether a tactic is right or wrong. Whether it has worked is irrelevant. People who have spent years in a system are considered more knowledgeable than people who have used the system. Assigned rank trumps scars...
Maybe not. Maybe I'm just looking for something to explain how delusional people can be, how fiercely they can defend their ignorance. The longevity-oriented model explains it well... but a model is not necessarily reality.
David called today. YMAA wants to publish the "Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force". Whoo frigging hooo. Parts of the book are pretty personal and I've been really worried about how civilians would read it, but David is an excellent judge and he liked it.
Also he said that in principal, he's cool with me publishing the drill manual as an e-book and then doing an expanded and illustrated version for YMAA. So the basics can be out in a month or two and the good stuff in print in a year or two. Best of all available worlds.