Saturday, December 04, 2010

Training In Versus Training For

Sometimes there are profoundly deep misunderstandings when people talk. We assume that when we do similar things, we probably do them for similar reasons, and that’s just not true.

200 years ago, drill and ceremony (marching in formation) was one of the most critical skills on the battlefield. Maybe not for individual survival but for expanding a general’s span of control so that he could give orders and expect them to be carried out. Good drill training won wars, and winning saved lives.

Now that it is suicidal, and has been for over a hundred years, it is still practiced. I would jettison it as no longer applicable and training in things that don’t work is wasted time. But others are not training to defeat an enemy. They are training to be (or create) soldiers. And soldiers know how to march.

Training in a martial art is not the same thing as training for violence. Not at all, and this for years has been one of my blindspots. I had assumed that in the end everyone was training for the dark day when they may have to use the skills. From that point of view much of the training was counter-productive. Some was senseless. Some things were jettisoned that worked in real life but not in play and some things were incorporated that worked in play but not in real life.

And almost all of these deficits could be vastly improved with just a touch of good old-fashioned goals-backward thinking. Study the problem, decide what you are training for and then you can much better evaluate what you are doing in training. Is that attack so patently stupid that you would never do it? Then a crook wouldn’t either. So why practice a defense.

A little forethought and you can really streamline both your training and your personal style.

But… and here is where my blindspot hit. A friend, someone I respect very much as a man and a martial artist pointed out that there are insights you get from dedicated training, things that ‘click’ five or ten years into training.

I agree completely, but (and I was thinking about something/somebody specific) sometimes you get incredible insight into becoming more efficient at things that don’t work. Thinks that have no tactical application.

And that was my blindspot. US Marshal Jones said that in order for a technique to be valid it must have three elements. The list now has four, so I must have added one and I’m not sure which it was:

· Anything you teach must have a tactical use. Reholstering quickly doesn’t have a tactical use. Outside of handcuffing, breaking a turtle (the judo guys know what I mean) not only has no self-defense use but there’s no way to do it without being the bad guy, legally.

· It must work moving or standing still. If you can’t hit hard when both you and the threat are moving, you can’t hit hard. If you can’t put a bullet on target on a moving target while you, yourself are moving, for all tactical purposes you can’t shoot.

· It must work whether you can see or not (and this is likely the one I added, because JJ is primarily a shooter and there are lots of shooting skills that rely on sight… but at the same time he insisted that everything except target acquisition be done by touch.)

· The technique must work when you are scared, under an adrenaline dump. If the technique needs a clear head and pinpoint precision to work, it doesn’t work.

These are classic, and I apply them to my training…but I am training for things. For very specific things. Not just one thing, either. Getting out of a place alive when things go to shit is a different skill than handcuffing. It’s also a different problem armed than it is unarmed. But the skills and training always serve the goals.

This is also probably the crux of the identity problem (not feeling like a martial artist any more) and the ‘martial arts can’t be a way of life’ sentiment.

I’m training for things. I’m no longer training in martial arts. Martial artists do study ‘the problem’ but the problem is not surviving a dark day, the problem is becoming a better martial artist. It can look self-referencing to me, artificial, a little like navel gazing… but it is just as valid as what I do, and probably more satisfying for more people. Without the dark days, all of my time might feel wasted. I wouldn’t necessarily know what was a waste of time. The navel-gazing I see in serious martial artists might well transmute into the fantasy life that is rampant in the RBSD crowd.

There but for luck go I.


Joshkie said...

Not Hard to see why you would have this blind spot. If you asked 100 people studing marshal arts 95 of them would, probably, say to learn to defend my self.

Kasey said...

If you maintain that martial art is the art of war. And war is killing or disabling your opponet before he can kill or disable you, then yes your pursuit is martial art. If you define martial art as putting on a gi and mimicing motions that are taught specifically not to injure, much less disable or kill your opponent then no, you are no longer a martial artist. But if that is the definition of martial art,who would want to be a martial artist?

Jim said...

One quick observation: There is indeed a tactical reason to be able to reholster rapidly, at least for cops. Say an officer is searching a building following an alarm (or doing room clearing on a search warrant, or any of a number of other things). He comes around a corner, and encounters someone. Someone who is unarmed, but doesn't comply with orders... The officer now has to go hands on -- and has to get that gun he was letting lead the way secured. And often, this has to be done fast...

Now, don't get me wrong -- drawing rapidly and smoothly, and getting on target quick is a vitally important skill. But, just like you have have to be able to ratchet between "soft hands" to strikes and/or locks and back down... a cop needs to transition between lethal and nonlethal force in either direction, quickly and smoothly.

Tiff said...

Thank God. Now I have a way to explain you to people! :}

Jens, Sweden said...

Thank you, again for yet another insight. And whie training in Martial arts improves your self defence skills, it isn't nececarily SD training.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

As has been said, but most martial artists train for the dark day, the problem is that they haven't considered what that requires as a package.
Now as an suggestion, if we train properly for the dark day, but are normal people who do not regularly go in to those situations, we are training for the IF not WHEN. Now, if there is never a WHEN, do we know of We have got it, and ultimately we are in as much of the "what if land" as the other MAs, doing their stuff. We are, side are training in the way we think is best for the IF situation, but if neither have needed to use them then we don't really know.
Its about what one feels to be

Scott said...

Well, even martial artists might need self-defense once in a while.
But I have tended to argue that you'd have to be mad to train day in day out just for an unlikely attack sometime in the future. Cookoo.
But Art has its own logic, it is its own world. Isn't it cool that we got two generations of American men (and some tough women) doing dance (and theater) without them even realizing they were doing it! And that dedication to this Art (dance, martial, theater) has been deep and intense?
"As a way of life" implies that it is an artistic way of seeing and doing, an aesthetic. It really is about the clothes dude! And I'm cool with that.

Joshkie said...

It's all about honesty with oneself. Rory has a principle - "fight to the goal." Maybe there should be one called "train to the goal." If your goal is self improvment and descipline; do the things that work for that. You want to learn what worked and didn't work in RL and to train in that; do it. Have your actions match your words.
This is self deturmened, but I would causion to use logic not some made up fantasy.

Joshkie said...

I'm not happy with last sentence of my post. Let me expand on that. What I ment was the internal definitions we come up with are proble going to be different unless we come together. Is what I mean by marshal arts and what Rory means different? Here's a question for every one; (1)What does SelfDefense and (2)Marshal Arts mean to you?
I'm not sure if Rory would want us post our answers here, but we should be thinking about the answers.

Kasey said...

There is no reason Dojo martial art can't be practical self defense. I think a large part of Meditations on violence is geared to help martial artists use what they have been training in against real world violence. Having said that there is no reason practical self defense can't be taught in a regular dojo setting (weren't all martial arts practical self defense at one point?) with all of thr intangleble benifits (dicipline, respect, social friendships, etc..) that martial arts provide with out ingraining habbits that will get you killed against violence outside the dojo. The further soceity gets from violence the more romanticized martial art becomes. The closer soceity is to violence the more real training has to be because romance will get you killed. Like gun fighting in wild west vs "wild west" gun shows in a more peaceful time. We are living in an ever more violent world. I feel Rory is just ahead of the curve as the pendgulum swings back from romanticising how warriors were in Japan / China / where ever to modern warriors training in skills they need to survive.

Sean said...

Interesting post. I agree that a lot of training is aimed at mastering a martial art rather than learning how to solve a particular problem. The whole idea of tradition for one thing (what if you find a better but non-traditional way of doing something?)

What about people who train for the problem of winning a competition, or impressing an audience, or an obsolete type of violence (not a lot of legal duels with sharp rapiers any more; nor disagreements between two kneeling samurai with swords in reach)? Those are different problems than you focus on, but not ridiculous things to train for. And in my experience they are at least as common as training for the legal definition of self defense.

Charles James said...

As always, outstanding post and viewpoint.

Alas, if you had not gone into jail work would you have changed or would you have remained one of those "martial artists?"

Sometimes, things change due to some "thing" that we experience in life causing us to shift directions, would you have been as profound at true and violent conflict if you had gone a different path?

Paul Kirchner said...

Rory, I really appreciate the thought you put into your posts and your ability to communicate so clearly.

I wish I had something useful to add but I don't, and didn't want that to be a reason for not bothering to express my respect for what you are doing with your writing.

Peter said...

Wondering what your take on Traditional Bodyguard Arts - Martial Arts Training With No Fluff might be in this regard.

In one year, across 96 of contact/training for $900 Pittman & Mosher "have synthesized their knowledge of the body and martial arts into a course of study for the serious martial arts practitioner."

Rory said...

Thanks everybody.
Jim- I disagree, but it just may be different training. We weren't asked to do clearing except at high threat level. No way I would holster at all unless another officer had the situation locked down at gun point, in which case smooth and methodical, not quick, is the optimal skill. Going up in force options has to be quick. We don't go down force options unless it is safe to be slow.
If/when/reality... I disagree on training what feels right. Our midbrains aren't as aware that TV and fiction are wrong and will use those as sources to determine what feels right. We need a little research.

Scott- I wish you'd been there to see my wife teach a camp of about a hundred karate guys how to belly dance. It was funny, but at the same time it put some of their isolations in a way more effective context.

Sean- Everyone's definition of ridiculous is different. But MA is one area where too many people don't distinguish what they are doing and why they are doing it, or aren't honest with themselves, as Joshkie says. I train obsolete weapons, partially because it is fun. When I am in a drilling mood and need the edge, because sharp steel is great for focus, but the primary benefit in training for is that it is the fastest way to get really good at reading distance. On the other hand, there is this extremely pointless (to me) ritual involved with Japanese sword practice. I want the sageo out of the way or securing the scabbard. Caring about which fingers I pinch it between? Not so much...but the ritual for handing over a live weapon makes perfect sense and I both get a little upset when it is done incorrectly and every good gun person I know unwittingly uses a variation when they pass a handgun.

Anonymous said...

There is a solid distinction between the areas tactical training, develomental training, sport practice and those seeking artistic expression. This really comes out in these discussions because we all see it to some degree, and from different angles. Each has a purpose and each is a different distance to what 'martial arts' should probably mean.

The martial arts was supposedly soley defined by and as martial people at one time. This has been obscured in our culture. Words move very fast. With technology meanings bloom and become shared at the speed of light and sound.

I suppose we can't always choose what its called, only what we do are doing with and in it.

-Billy G.

Drew said...


Joshkie said...

This is something that has been bothering me is "Traing to the Goal" something a read on your blog and internalized or something that came out of my head?
If its the former Sorry for not remembering and siting. I went back though skimming a few times looking(lot of blog), but didn't see it.