Thursday, February 24, 2011

Begging The Question

I may have written about this before.
"Begging the question" is a debating fallacy, where you make a statement that has some assumptions in it. The assumptions are easy to miss and if you don't call the person on it the debate (or chain of logic) will go to a nice, logical conclusion...and be entirely based on a false premise. What this means in the world of self-defense is that it is easy to teach things that make sense, but don't work.

In "Meditations on Violence" I mentioned instructors who extolled the 'eyes of the tiger' basically saying that you would do very well in a fight if you could get into the predator mindset. That's a perfect example of begging the question. That mindset works very well... provided you can get there. How?

Practicing in any given mindset is not the skill (and as far as I can tell doesn't even help you) of getting to that mindset, especially under assault. Going full-bore offensive works tactically very often... but getting someone to do it for the first time as a conscious decision is like pulling teeth.

This goes on constantly, especially in a field with so many experts and so little field experience like self-defense. Watch for the word 'just': "If you get attacked from behind, just turn around." Could that little bit of wisdom have come from the mouth of anyone who has been attacked from behind? Even (one I am guilty of) "Just get off line". It is logical. It works. It is easy. There are techniques for it. And yet too many people, people who know better, can't ditch their social programming and wind up fighting eye-to-eye. Just because it is logical and it works, doesn't meant there isn't a deeper question being ignored.

An online VPPG challenge:
In a seminar setting, you don't know what levels of skills you will be dealing with and often (especially at mine) the floors are concrete. You don't know who knows how to breakfall, who doesn't and who thinks they know how to breakfall. Given that environment, can anybody come up with a safe way to practice takedowns, especially the momentum throws?


Sheridan said...

I am a 22-year old male martial artist in Chicago currently enrolled in college at the University of Chicago. I have also been a longtime reader of your blog. As far as my martial art background goes, I have lots of experience as a student, and a little experience (most of it in the last year) as a teacher.

Over the course of my training, I too have confronted the problem of the "realistic" but too-hard-for-practice floor. In my case, it's a spacious dance room with varnished wood floors. We had two ways of working around the hard floors with beginners.

1. Bundle up in winter clothing. Lots of layers can turn a bad breakfall into an equally bad breakfall with tons of compensating padding. As long as the student knew to tuck their chin and slap in some way, we avoided a lot of injury this way, and could use throws on harder surfaces. It was even good for the attacker, who got to try takedowns on a winter-clothing adversary instead of the t-shirt/sweat pants foe that they usuually face in our gym.

2. Ask students if they have mats. We asked if anyone could get some mats for one particular class, because our University gym is stingy about lending theirs out. Students actually went to the effort to bring mats over from another location just to help out. Working with other martial artists gives me access to a lot of athletic resource in terms of extra training equipment (pads and weapons, for instance). If you are lucky, sometimes this includes mats.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a picky smart-ass, but "begging the question" doesn't refer to conclusions that have implicit assumptions. Most arguments or assertions have unstated assumptions.

"Begging the question" refers to when someone tries to prove a statement where the "proof" is the very thing trying to be proven. Some good examples can be found here:

What you point out is just that assumptions often go unchecked. This isn't "begging the question," and it actually isn't even a fallacy per se, but you're right that it IS dangerous to take those assumptions for granted, especially in the case of self defense. Perhaps attackers attack from behind because it's very difficult for the victim to turn around. Perhaps the predator mindset works because it prevents the victim from entering that mindset himself. So while it sounds good on paper, it fails in practice.

However, one might see an actual example of begging the question in the following dialogue:

"Teacher, how can I be sure this technique is effective?"
"Because the system is designed for practical combat."

This is begging the question because, to justify the practicality of a technique, the teacher just asserts (without evidence) that the whole system is practical (and therefore every technique in it).

Lisa said...

as you for the word, "just". I think the word always needs to be included as well. "the pain will 'always' stop the attacker."

Anonymous said...

Someone already linked to this site, but I'll just add that has a whole list of inadequate argumentative techniques that are quite useful because they are so often used!

Jim said...

Any absolutes or oversimplifications in discussing real self defense are red flags.

"Just" turn around. "Just" move off the line. Hit 'em here and they'll "always" do that...

Heck, handling a person attacking you with a submachine gun on full auto is easy! Just don't get shot, and take 'em down. Right? Handling a barricaded subject is simple, too. Go in and get 'em. Right?

As to the breakfall question -- I don't think there's an easy solution. You don't know -- and you don't know whether the guy who claims to know how to handle a fall can do so in a different situation. I've seen aikido and judo black belts who discovered that they couldn't fall when they weren't thrown properly...

One idea -- building blocks. Do a quick exercise or two that lets you get a feel for people's actual ability to fall.

Anonymous said...

Obviously maximizing safety would probably mean matching the skilled people with the unskilled and going easy. Someone good at it in each pair to maintain safe control themselves and spotting an inexperienced uke. You could always employ a few sparring headgear sets to mitigate the biggest risk.

However, I think a creative way for all skill levels to safely practice doing this stuff in the seminars could be in the exactly the same manner you’ve been approaching everything else. Going to the floor without hurting yourself is an essential skill. For many it means overcoming a mental block. Some people just fall down so ugly. It is just like someone who cannot swim who panics in deep water. I just watched Cesar Milan solve for a Husky that was horrified to go in a swimming pool in like 15 minutes. He carried it slowly into the water with him and just held it over the water with its feet getting wet, staying calm and controlling the initial engagement. Then he slowly let the dog take over and explore the water on its own. It learned instinctively it was a social event and engagement with the pool water was not to be feared.

I think you can quickly get people to where they will be OK about going to the floor on their own, and can instinctively protect themselves. It probably does have to be done easy anyway. The guy throwing gets to choose what level of gentle or mean they are going to be. But people helping each other would take competition out of the equation. Make the exercise about handing the uke off to the floor rather than just slamming someone. On the flip side people need to feel their balance lines suddenly break, but in that moment be given some security it is OK to let go of the panic and choose to be part of the motion of engaging the floor surface.

In the kid’s classes I make falling and rolling a game, much like you do in one step. We do use mats just because they are little kids. But, I start with easy rules like having them cross their own arms and pretend to fall down on their own or even just sit down and fall over as if they were in a straight jacket. I make it a contest. Anyone who touches the mat with his/her head or hands or elbows is "out". I have them lie or roll on the floor slapping the ground anyway they want, but their turn on the floor is over if their head or elbows touch floor. Another one is to have them crouch on the floor and roll around as I pretend to smack them with one of those super duper padded whiffel ball bats. I kia real loud because they get a trigger from it and it gives them time to roll out of the way in any direction they want, (picture a guy screaming while playing a life-sized game of Whack a Mole). They love it and learn really quickly to move all over the floor in different manners under their own power. I then build on that with older kids and adults, slapping the mat and rolling back up again and so on. I’ll also make them close their eyes and fall down on command or with a tap on their shoulder …moving on to giving them a good shove, where they can dive and roll away and back up. They just get used to going to the floor and engaging with it as an object.

I imagine some kind of process like this pretending to fall down and rolling around under their own power would get most adults quickly to a place where letting go and seeing that going with the motion to the floor is often a safe option as long as you make sure you land on meat. Not sure if any of this is exactly what you are getting at and its not really novel stuff, but maybe something sparks a new idea.

-Billy G.

Terje said...

Working on throws, you need mats or your going to comprmise to much on timing and balance. So much you mught be practicing a wrong technique.

But if I had to pratice full blown throws(and didn't have mats). I would move out , and take a garden lawn instead or by the seaside (throwing poeple in the water can be quite fun).


Randy said...

RE the online challenge question:

If mats are not available and falling skills are questionable, make catching or controlling the partner the other half of the objective from the actual takedown. If someone doesn't have the strength or stability to safely do this, that persons' goal becomes getting into position and initiating the lift/displacement phase of the throw and holding there without passing the limits of their ability to do so. If the person is able to initiate the lift or displacement safely, speed should not exceed their ability to control the partner on the way to the floor. If there are enough people in the seminar, engage the other people as "spotters" for the pair that happens to be trying the takedown.

The secondary benefit of starting with these limitations is in learning how to stay with someone on the way to the floor for further control there. This isn't necessarily an objective or a priority in all situations, but it does have it's place. As "homework", advise the group to improve remedial falling skills at their home training location or someplace with mats before attempting to execute the takedowns with speed.

Randy said...

"...learning how to stay with someone on the way to the floor for further control there.

"*Clarification- to keep further control from a standing or kneeling position, not an attempt at groundfighting.