Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Training Blindness

Have to get this out of the way first.  Most of the self-defense techniques I see taught don't take into account the essential nature of an assault.  Not just ignoring the fact that it is fast, hard and from surprise.  Most ignore the simple fact that the bad guy doesn't do just one thing and then wait for you to solve the problem.  If, anywhere in your solution, there is time for him to do something, the bad guy will be doing something.  And that 'something' will change the dynamics of each step of your complicated, memorized technique.

I've seen this in an eight-move technique to escape from a wall pin that wound up in a nifty armlock. Even at a 90% effectiveness rate for each step, let's see, .9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9x.9= .43.  Or thereabouts More likely to fail than to work even if you are very good.  And what really annoyed me is that there was a two-move option to get to the same result... but the instructor didn't consider that elegant.  Dammit, simple is elegant.  And effective is beautiful.

Also seen it in a two move escape from a grab (at least it was a grab that actually happens, there's that at least).  The second move actually worked okay without the first move.  The first move did nothing except afford me an opportunity to punch him in the face while he wasted time.

Had to get that out of the way even though it only has a weak connection with training blindness.  Maybe the inability to see the artificiality?

I don't teach new things.  On some level, everyone knows the things I teach.  You couldn't survive without at least some gut feeling about this stuff.  The running class on classifications of violence-- we all knew that the monkey dance of a drunk college kid in a bar was different than a stranger rape.  We all knew (if we thought about it for a second) that robbing to get the money to get the drugs was different than working out a self-esteem issue.  And if we ever really thought about the problems criminals need to solve we would come up with efficient criminal reactions to those problems, not martial arts solutions.

So it's not new, just making the information conscious and organized enough to use.

But one of the most basic is the hardest.  And that is simply seeing.

Went to grab a throat and the student immediately ran through her memory rolodex to do what she was taught.  Which did not have a hope in hell of working.  It was too complicated, didn't take into account our strength disparity... Hopeless.  All the technique would have done is distract her while the bad guy escalated his evil.

And here's the blind part: She knew it.  Like every student, she has been moving her whole body for her whole life.  She's seen other people move and, I assume, felt them.  One glance and she knew it wouldn't work, anymore than any chi master will ever lift an engine block without touching.  She knew and turned off her eyes and her brain and did what she was 'supposed' to do anyway.

Training makes you blind.  Not at first.  At first you see all kinds of new things.  The world gets bigger.  And that's a huge component of getting good.  The 'Orient' step of the OODA loop is one of the places you can freeze and it must be trained.  A baby doesn't automatically know that an object getting bigger is getting closer.  You have to learn to identify the weight shift before a kick.  All good.

But the longer you stay in one sandbox, the more you forget all of the other things outside the sandbox. Once you remember you forget to see.  Once you start living in your head, you quit living in the world.

Going back to the defense that didn't work-- had she applied the exact same motion as the first move of the sequence at a slightly different angle she would have prevented the grab and jabbed me in the throat.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the physics or body mechanics of the move.  Except for where they were applied and the assumption that 4 moves at 90% effectiveness would mean 360% effectiveness.  When it is actually 65.6%.

A slight angle change and you get two solid effects with a single motion.  (My goal is four with each motion).  As opposed to four motions to get one effect with no finish.

The student already knew this.  She could see it.  It was right in front of her eyes.  Except she couldn't.  Seeing a problem she knew from training, she remembered the response from training.  In all of the years of training somehow the fact that it was only working because her partners had also been brainwashed into letting it work drifted out of consciousness and it became 'the thing to do.'

With that, everything she knew about physics, about bodies, about the way angles cut into weakness (still tired, not using words gooder-- basically it's easier to move the end of the lever and even easier if you 'cut' while doing it and even easier if you move) just disappeared down some mental rabbit hole.  For combative and self-defense purposes, this student was essentially blind.  And her training had made her that way.

It's not so simple, because everything I did point out was in her system.  Any system that has survived for any length of time has the stuff you need in it.  Darwin had a lot to say about things, until rule of law spread and even then for a long while until dojo arashi became frowned upon. (Anyone want to propose legislation that legitimizes dueling as an alternative to lawsuits?)

So not only did she naturally know this stuff, the system she trained in was based on it and somehow failed to pass it on in a useful way.  How many instructors can you think of who can explain the principles of how techniques work but the techniques taught violate those principles?  Too many.

This kind of blindness is hereditary.  An instructor who has it will pass it on.  In demonstrations, the blindness of his students becomes part of the reason his techniques work.  A student who can actually see is an incredible threat to his ability and status

And it is all completely unnecessary. The good stuff is there.  You just look for it, and then look for where it really fits. See.


Charles James said...

Would you attribute this lack of sight to a lack of real life experience?

Jim said...

So it's not new, just making the information conscious and organized enough to use.

But -- that's a gift you have. You don't teach anything "new." You make those who work with you aware of what they already knew, and then, by making it conscious, they can make it more effective.

Rory said...

Thanks, Jim. I'm comfortable with that.
Charles- This is one that I don't think takes experience with real violence. Physics doesn't change (much, but that's twilight zone stuff). I think all instructors need to cultivate a few honorable enemies, people who will tell the emperor when he is wearing no clothes.

Clever Survivalist Blog Survival Guide said...

OK. This may be the wrong post to put this on since you have already talked about people thinking their way is best, but if you were starting with someone that is a blank slate for the most useful art in self defense, or even combat, which would you choose between krav maga, kickboxing, mma, or jujitsu?
"Check out my Survivalist Blog at the Clever Survivalist and read daily Survival Guide content."

Rory said...

CSB- The KM _if_ it is taught by someone who knows self-defense law AND actually knows what he is doing and didn't just take a 24-hr "International Instructors Certificate" class.
The Kickboxing _if_ the instructor knows how to teach at all levels of contact, strategies for other things than stand-up fighting, and understands the difference between dueling and self-defense.
MMA _if_ the instructor is very clear on the differences in environment and strategy for a match-up with lots of warning with someone your own size using the same tools versus surprise with overwhelming force from someone bigger and stronger.
JJ is too broad to even make a guess.

Basically the instructor will make the difference,not the system. All of your choices can be excellent or suck for your purposes depending on the instructor's understanding of your needs and how willing he is to adapt the curriculum.

smdcosta said...

Great post Rory. Thanks.

What about a post with some guidance for instructors on avoiding the pitfalls. Human nature is to operate within comfort zones. Perhaps something along the lines of a thought process of check list.

On a side note. Was thinking that many martial arts take ones aspect of a violent situation that is taught in a particular fashion and balloon it out into a major practice. Mostly probably without thinking. Chi sou could be an example of this. The element of sensitivity manipulation and control may be only one small of a fight but because people get stuck in comfort zones they turn that part of the training into an art. In learning and teaching these small aspects need to be slowed down and ballooned out but not turned into the focus of the art.
Some guidance on keeping the central point of martial arts prominent without loosing the art aspect would be great. In my thinking the art side of it keeps us regular folk going and occupied the 95% of the time in our lives we are not facing violence.

Not sure if that ramble made sense.
Anyways my regards and thanks.
Madhava D'Costa