Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cold Math: Epipheny

Yesterday in Everett was very good.  John had a great venue, the mix of skills and intensity was wonderful.  Several previous attendees and some new blood.  Sore muscles, rug burns... some of the best things in life.

With a few exceptions, I stayed away from the dark stuff.  Yesterday was about fun and movement and efficiency.  We played at mass brawls and (almost) everyone learned and extrapolated the lesson of the baby drill.  Score!  And I saw something I have been trying to put into words for a long time.

It is some pretty cold math.

People, generally, are very inefficient fighters.  Contestants regularly go two-minute rounds in any full-contact combat sport you care to name yet, hospitalizations are rare.  Deaths are very rare,  and these are skilled fighters in excellent condition.

On the other hand, people can be extremely efficient killers.  The longest stage in butchering an 800 pound steer or 200 pound hog is watching it bleed out.  There is no ritual when you butcher meat.  You don't take time to bow in, you don't get angry.  There is no fight.

People can apply this skill and mindset to other people.  Some can, anyway.  It becomes very efficient.  It doesn't have to be just killing, either. It's a tiny switch in mindset to simply knock down a threat and cuff him while he is still waiting for the fight.  We can do it.  We don't.  We are so conditioned-- biologically, socially and through training-- to fight, to struggle, to turn any face to face struggle with each other into a dominance game with rules we are not even aware of...

(The tempting tangent, here is to go into how completely unprepared skilled fighters are when they meet a casual killer, but that's not the point.)

The one-step drill has to be done slowly to be safe.  I want good power generation, good targeting.  Each moment or action should be a cold assessment of the most efficient option.  I want people to practice or at least think of skills closer to butchering than to fighting.  Each action should be intended to incapacitate the threat or put the threat in a position to incapacitate.  I want them going slowly enough that they can stay (safely) in the cold, killing mindset when all of their instincts are pushing them to fight, to contest.

It's hard to go slow, and always a few people ramp it up.  Usually no one gets hurt and I usually just tell them to slow down, remind them that the drill isn't a fight simulation, it's about learning to see and encourage them to slow down and see...

"...always a few people ramp it up.  Usually no one gets hurt..." That clicked, yesterday.  Finally, and I feel like an idiot for not figuring the words out sooner.

Here's the deal, and herein is the cold math:  If you are ramping it up, if you are putting energy into a system designed to hurt people and no one is getting hurt, the energy is being dissipated, wasted in some way.  In other words, if you are training to injure people (which is the essence of martial arts) and you practice with speed and power in sparring and no one gets hurt you are being inefficient.  There is no way to put ten times the energy (effort, power, speed) into the system (sparring) and get the same results (no injuries) unless you also drop the efficiency by a full factor.

It is completely subconscious, for most people.  I caught myself tensing up punching someone I didn't want to hurt a while ago.  A subconscious inefficiency I hadn't felt in years... and also the first time I'd fought within my own tribe in years.

This post will bring up all kinds of resistance.  We all do things that feel stronger that makes us less efficient, but we all deny it.  You only really have to look at the threat displays versus the pre-assault indicators to see it in others, though.  All the 'big, red, loud' pattern of a threat display makes for a vulnerable, exposed, weak and telegraphing fighter... but we are programmed to feel and sometimes see stupid rage as strength.

Thanks to the crew who showed up yesterday, I think I finally found the words.


The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Great post. Sums up so much of what I see. People who think that they have to do it hard and fast and do free play etc to "Get it" but missing the point you make. They aren't hurting people apart form equipmet failures. So they are wasting energy and and doing things inefficiently.

Kai Jones said...

Now you know how hard it is to hit you in a drill.

From the outside training looks like having a middle speed, instead of just having "stop" and "kill."

Maija said...


Jeff said...

Too funny. We have been talking about this 'math' in a very similar way. This is dead on. Good stuff.

Flinthart said...

Thank you. I've long since stopped wasting my breath in argument with the people who swear by the deadliness acquired through hard MMA-type sparring. But having you articulate the underlying truth is -- nice.

I've trained with sport/competition types, but I consciously chose to stay out of the ring because it always, always seemed to me that no matter how hard you went in the sport arena, you must inevitably be training and ingraining some things which are fundamentally inefficient in a defense-of-self-or-others situation.

I think there's plenty of value in sparring, in striking and being struck. But yes: trying to ramp it up to the maximum is essentially trying to make it the main focus of your training.

Which is great, if you want to win in a cage match. But not so great if you want to walk the streets in peace.

zzrzinn said...

Ha, I think was one of THOSE people!!
Had an awesome time, and have ALOT of stuff to think about..thanks for an excellent time Rory.

zzrzinn said...

Ha, I was one of those people!!
Had an awesome time, and have ALOT of stuff to think about..thanks for an excellent time Rory.

Anonymous said...

Rory - would you say this ties in to your thoughts on classical kata? Maybe it was MOV, or maybe this blog, but I remember you saying something about a kata done with a bokken at full speed, and if you didn't move the opponent really would have hurt you.

The essence was that having the scenario mapped out in detail was what allowed the full speed & power to happen.

Perhaps classical kata serve as structured "equations" to practice using the cold math in.

Jake said...

Good stuff. Never thought of it in those words, but it's absolutely right.

Charles James said...

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

I recall one story which can be related to this post. After the World War 2, one veteran soldier was on his way back to his home village. His path was crossed by a person who was sort of a local ''intimidator'' – he supposed to be quite tall and well built (also trained boxing for couple of years). When he met this veteran he was disturbed how the veteran looked at him, so he started to threaten him in terms of beating him up and even killing him. He wasn't aware that this veteran soldier saw extensive action on the eastern and later on western front. The veteran was not interested to play games (if I refer to Miller's description – ''monkey games'') so in a fraction of time, the veteran struck him down and broke his neck. Because WW2 was oficially ended and killing was no more ''leagal'', he was sentenced for 2 years in prison (something we can't imagine by today's ''standards''). After he finally returned to the hometown as a free man, the people were thankful to him for what he did..
You can draw many outlines from this story (even those paradoxical ones - at least to some; being grateful to someone for killing another person), yet I only pointed out the difference regarding the mindset in the above mentioned terms.

ales j.

Joshkie said...

Question: What does intensity of exertion have to do with will of intent.

Answer: Nothing.

I picked up a concept reading Robert A. Heinlein's book "Time Enough for Love." I call it good lazy & bad lazy. Wanting to do as little as possible is not necessarily bad.
If you avoid doing something that you need or have to do, and this causes you to work harder when you do get around to doing it, that is the essence of bad lazy. Doing something you need or have to do as quickly and with as little effort as possible is the essence of good lazy. Both start from the same place, but end up with different outcomes: working harder and efficiency.

It sounds to me like people say to themselves, "An assault will be an intense situation, so I and my training need to be intense(bad lazy)." How about, "An assault will be an intense situation, so I need to conserve my energy by being as efficient as possible (good lazy)."

It all goes back to find/identifying the 'goal' for me.

Something I'm working on now is stopping myself, every once in a while, and asking, "What I'm trying to accomplish or build with what I'm doing right now, and does it have a reasonable chance of working?"

Sorry, this got long winded,

Joshkie said...

Ps. That's assuming that they're even questing what they're doing.


Don Weiss said...

Similar to the Target Focus Training concept of slow movement, proper delivery of force into the body, etc. Seems the mental aspect of not 'playing the others game', but simply getting to the business of ending the incident through injury. thanks for the article.

ctkwingchun said...

Sport fighting isn't designed to kill. It's a spectator sport. Also, it's a good way to pressure test in a safe environment.

Sparring/fighting teaches distance, timing, give and take, taking punishment and retaliation, pain management, fear management, etc.